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House panel rejects Senate on insurer jobs tax break

The legislative plot thickened Friday.

At a brief, scripted meeting, the House Appropriations Committee flatly rejected the Senate's call to repeal an insurance industry tax break and give motorists a break by immediately rolling back car and truck tag fees by $220 million. The vote was 26-0. Insurance industry lobbyists showed up in force, but they didn't have to plead their case to save a payroll tax credit that has benefited the industry by more than $3 billion since it went on the books in 1987.

Instead, the House plan leaves the tax break intact and gradually rolls back car and truck registration fees over a five-year period, with the fee reductions coming straight out of state general revenue -- the money used to pay teachers' salaries and keep the lights on in state buildings. Motorists would see a $2.40 cut in tag fees next year, not a $12 reduction that the Senate wants.

Without hearing any testimony, House Republicans accepted the industry line that the tax credit has helped it attract jobs to the state.

"It's never a great idea to exchange jobs for cutting fees. It's better to just cut fees," said Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville.

The hearing was attended by a large group of insurance industry lobbyists who quietly waived their chance to testify and said they supported the House's alternative, which was presented by Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who said "taxing job creators" is never good policy in the state.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he was disappointed by the House vote. "There simply isn't any justification to continue to write a check for a quarter of a billion dollars to help the insurance industry meet payroll," said Negron, who called the tax credit a "lifetime annuity."

"But we'll keep talking to our friends in the House," Negron added. Asked if the House's willingness to repeal the tax credit is tied to other late-session issues, such as the Senate's consideration of the House plan to change state workers' pension plans, Negron said: "At this stage, everything is related to everything."

-- Steve Bousquet



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The House found a way to reduce license tag fees without increasing our insurance premiums while at the same time preserving Florida jobs and helping the Florida economy. Looks like they got it right to me !

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