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Unanimous Senate kills insurance industry tax break

The Florida Senate was not a good neighbor to State Farm Wednesday.

In a unanimous bipartisan vote, the Senate ended a tax credit long enjoyed by the insurance industry and use the money to roll back some car and truck tag fee increases from 2009. Motorists will get a fee reduction of $12 a year from the repeal, which will generate about $220 million a
year.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the bill (SB 1832) will end a 26-year jobs credit to insurers for the jobs they create in the Sunshine State. The more jobs insurers create in Florida, the bigger the tax break. More than 150,000 people work in the insurance industry in Florida, but lobbyists were unable to cite specific jobs that were a direct result of the tax credit.

The Senate decided that the giveaway must end, and some senators gleefully piled on the industry, which has hinted that some jobs may leave if the exemption is taken off the books. "It's nice to finally call a bluff," said Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate. "The state is not going to collapse ... because we're removing these tax exemptions."

The vote was 39-0 with Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, absent. One Democrat tried to block the move.
Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, where Florida Blue and other insurers have emormous clout, offered an amendment to study the issue for a year. Gibson's amendment was easily defeated on a voice vote.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has promised a straight up-or-down vote in the 120-member House, even though no House member has filed a bill similar to Negron's. A favorable House vote will force Gov. Rick Scott to side with motorists or a pillar of the Florida business community on his signature issue of jobs.

-- Steve Bousquet

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