The 2019 Florida Legislative Session is over. Lawmakers approved 197 bills this year, setting a record for the fewest bills passed (at least since 2001, and likely long before that). The amount of bills passed has been steadily declining. This is probably a good thing, but it also reflects the use of “trains,” strike-all amendments, and adding brand new issues to bills at the last minute, things that certainly occurred this year. Still, there was some good legislation that passed and, as always, some missed opportunities and some great ideas that became less so as the process wore on.
On Thursday, May 2, the Senate took up the tax package passed by the House (HB 7123) and adopted a strike-all amendment that put the Senate package on the bill. It kept many of the provisions (with some changes), added some new provisions, and removed one controversial provision, and changed another.
On Sunday, April 14, Florida TaxWatch joins the taxpayers in our state in celebrating Florida Taxpayer Independence Day 2019. On that day, Floridians are finally earning money for themselves–not for the tax collector. This symbolic date assumes that every dollar earned since January 1 goes to pay federal, state, and local tax obligations.
There is an affordable housing crisis in Florida. It is truly a nationwide problem, but it is especially acute in the Sunshine State. The availability of affordable housing for lower-income families in Florida is lower than almost all other states, and most of those at the lower end of the income scale that do have places to live are overburdened with housing costs they cannot afford.
DIFFERENCES IN EDUCATION, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND MORE MUST BE WORKED OUT
At the halfway mark of the 2019 Legislative Session, the House and Senate approved their proposed state budgets for FY2019-20. Both spending plans exceed current spending—the Senate by more than $1.0 billion and the House by $588.4 million. The House increases current General Revenue (GR) spending by $609.5 million (1.9 percent), while the Senate increases GR by $841.2 million (2.6 percent).
Florida TaxWatch has researched this issue for more than 15 years, producing numerous reports and offerings recommendations. But the courts’ physical presence requirement has always been a major obstacle. But now that obstacle is gone as a result of the US Supreme Court’s Wayfair decision, and it is time for the Legislature to fix this. Senate Bill 1112 can achieve this long-elusive goal.
The non-collection of sales taxes on sales to Florida customers by remote (out-of-state) sellers has been the most significant tax compliance and collection issue facing Florida and other states for many years. Remote vendors sell products by the internet, telephone, and mail. Historically, the courts have held that when a remote seller makes a sale to a person in a state in which the seller does not have a physical presence, that state cannot require the seller to collect the sales tax due and remit it to the state.
Since the enactment of the Communications Services Tax (CST) Simplification Act in 2001, Florida TaxWatch has released several reports recommending that the Legislature reduce this burdensome and highly regressive tax on consumers. Florida’s CST is very high, relative to both other states and the sales tax on the purchase of other goods. This high rate makes the tax punitive and distortionary, and makes the state less competitive than other states, including the potential for reducing investment in broadband network infrastructure.
Per-student spending is an easy-to-use measure by which taxpayers can evaluate public school spending and efficiency. Most taxpayers, however, have little or no idea how much is spent per student in public schools. The most commonly reported per-student spending figures in Florida are based solely on funding provided through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). For the 2017-18 school year, Florida public schools would have spent an average of $7,307 “per student” in FEFP funding.
HURRICANE MICHAEL BUDGET AMENDMENTS NOW TOTAL $443 MILLION; MORE THAN $200 MILLION IN CORPORATE INCOME TAXES COULD BE REFUNDED
The eagerly awaited final General Revenue (GR) estimates to be used for the next state budget are out. Legislators and appropriations lobbyists were hoping for an infusion of cash to ease a tight budget year, made even tighter by hurricane-related costs and the competing costly priorities of the Governor and legislative leaders. Well, that did not happen. The estimates did not change much, decreasing by a total of $7.4 million.