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Florida TaxWatch Announces 2020 Legislative Priorities for Florida Taxpayers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Today, Florida TaxWatch (FTW) announced its 2020 Legislative Priorities for Florida Taxpayers, outlining the top issues for the Florida Legislature to take up during the upcoming 60-day legislative session. The 2020 Florida Legislative Session is set to begin on Tuesday, January 14 and conclude with adjournment sine die on Friday, March 13. The FTW 2020 Legislative Priorities for Florida Taxpayers include:
 

  • Securing Recurring Funding to Protect, Preserve, and Restore Florida’s Water Resources
      
  • Reforming Florida’s Sales Tax Collection to Protect Consumers (E-Fairness)
      
  • Full Funding for VISIT FLORIDA to Keep Florida’s Tourism Industry Booming
      
  • Lowering Costs and Crime Through Data-Driven Criminal Justice Reform
      
  • Cutting Florida’s Business Rent Tax (BRT) & Communication Services Tax (CST)
      
  • Safeguarding Funding for Affordable Housing


Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro said, “For more than 40 years, Florida TaxWatch has been the eyes and ears of Florida taxpayers, fighting on the frontlines of state government to shepherd fair and sound policy and secure maximum returns on investment for families in every community. In announcing our 2020 legislative priorities today, we begin this new year and decade with clear and unrivaled resolve to deliver results to taxpayers that will enhance our economy, increase the benefit and productivity of government, and protect our natural treasures for generations to come. We look forward to working with our leaders in Tallahassee and throughout Florida to accomplish these important goals and build a stronger and more prosperous future for all Floridians.”

The Florida TaxWatch Legislative Update is the go-to resource for the latest information on issues affecting Florida’s taxpayers. This session, be sure to follow the update online here.

The below content may also be directly attributed to Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro.

Securing Recurring Funding to Protect, Preserve, and Restore Florida’s Water Resources
The importance of preserving and protecting Florida’s iconic environment and waterways cannot be overstated and we must continue to invest in this noble cause. Florida TaxWatch appreciates the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis and fully supports his recommendation for a $2.5 billion investment in water resource restoration and protection, with $300 million annually specifically for the Everglades, over the next three years. Action today will set Florida on a course toward true and lasting progress that will ensure our beloved and world-renowned natural treasures are protected for generations to come. 

Read Florida TaxWatch’s new major policy report, We Can’t Wait on Water: The Restoration and Protection of Florida’s Water Resources is an Essential Taxpayer Investment, which analyzes the environmental policy and funding priorities of Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, specifically for water resource restoration and protection, and the benefits provided to the state.

Reforming Florida’s Sales Tax Collection to Protect Consumers (E-Fairness)
Since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court Wayfair decision, which ruled that states can apply reasonable requirements for remote vendors to collect taxes on sales to residents, every state except Florida and Missouri have taken steps to resolve the issue. Not collecting taxes on remote sales costs Florida governments more than $700 million in legally owed revenue, places retailers at a competitive disadvantage, distorts purchasing decisions, is unfair to Floridians that do pay the tax, and makes millions of taxpayers—often unwittingly—lawbreakers. If this issue is resolved, the hundreds of millions of dollars in uncollected sales taxes could be used to reduce other onerous taxes—such as the Business Rent Tax (BRT) and the Communications Services Tax (CST). 

Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and Rep. Chuck Clemons (R-Newberry) have filed bills (SB 126 & HB 159) to address this issue in Florida. Read former FTW Board Chairman and  State Senator Pat Neal and FTW President & CEO Dominic M. Calabro’s opinion editorial in the Orlando Sentinel on this important issue. Read the FTW research on remote sales tax collection here

Full Funding for VISIT FLORIDA to Keep Florida’s Tourism Industry Booming
Tourism is a major driver of Florida economy. According to VISIT FLORIDA, in 2018, a record 127 million people visited the Sunshine State, and in the first six months of 2019, Florida welcomed nearly 69 million visitors, the most ever recorded in a six-month period. With every 81 visitors supporting one Florida job, it is critical that Florida’s tourism industry continues to boom. 

Florida TaxWatch research shows that continuous, targeted investment into Florida’s tourism industry is essential to our state’s success. While diversifying the economy is important, tourism will remain a key component of Florida’s economic strength. The Legislature must continue to fully fund tourism marketing and promotion and move Florida forward.

Lowering Costs and Crime Through Data-Driven Criminal Justice Reform
While Florida’s crime rate has steadily declined over the past decade, the Sunshine State continues to have one of the nation’s largest prison populations and pass the enormous costs of overincarceration onto the taxpayer. Even as laudable sentencing reforms have become law in recent years, it is clear that more must be done to implement modern policy that not only keeps Floridians safe, but also address the two primary drivers of growth in the criminal justice system: overincarceration and recidivism. 

Florida TaxWatch continues to be a strong advocate for reforms including increasing judicial discretion to allow for reduced sentences where possible, appropriate, and just, and authorizing conditional and supervised early release for elderly and infirm inmates and appreciates the hard work of Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), Rep. Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) and others on important criminal justice initiatives. 

Cutting Florida’s Business Rent Tax & Communication Services Tax
Since the enactment of the Communication Services Tax (CST) in 2001, Florida TaxWatch has called on the legislature to reduce this cost on taxpayers through multiple reports and recommendations. Florida currently has the nation’s ninth highest cell phone tax rate. This year, Sen. Travis Hutson (R-St. Augustine) and Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) and have introduced bills (SB 1174 & HB 701) to reduce and simplify the CST saving Floridians millions of dollars. FTW commends Sen. Hutson and Rep. Fischer for their continued leadership on reducing burdensome taxes on Florida families.

Florida remains the only state in the nation to subject businesses that rent property such as office space to a Business Rent Tax (BRT), creating a government mandated increase of up to eight percent in occupancy costs and increasing the tax expenses of businesses in the Sunshine State by billions every year. Florida TaxWatch has long advocated for the elimination of the BRT and once again calls on the legislature to rid Florida of this burdensome and unnecessary tax.

Safeguarding Funding for Affordable Housing
Florida TaxWatch has been clear that the affordable housing crisis in Florida must be taken seriously and addressed with immediate action to stop the harm being caused to our most vulnerable families and neighbors. This year, FTW again urges the legislature to stop the routine sweeps of Florida’s housing trust funds, including the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and to appropriate all funds in these trusts solely for Florida’s affordable housing programs.

About Florida TaxWatch
As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog and taxpayer research institute for more than forty years and the trusted eyes and ears of Florida taxpayers, Florida TaxWatch works to improve the productivity and accountability of Florida government. Its research recommends productivity enhancements and explains the statewide impact of fiscal and economic policies and practices on citizens and businesses. Florida TaxWatch is supported by its membership via voluntary, tax-deductible donations and private grants, and does not accept government funding. Donations provide a solid, lasting foundation that has enabled Florida TaxWatch to bring about a more effective, responsive government that is more accountable to, and productive for, the citizens it serves since 1979. For more information, please visit www.floridataxwatch.org.
 

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