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Senate will renew push to end major insurance industry tax break

Florida's insurance industry has a political fight on its hands in the upcoming legislative session.

JN-SBSenate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, will renew his effort to eliminate an industry sacred cow: a 15 percent tax credit on the salaries insurance companies pay to full-time employees in Florida.

With Negron as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate four years ago voted to repeal the 30-year-old tax break and redirect the proceeds to lower car registration fees, which a few years earlier had risen dramatically to close a budget gap in 2009.

The insurance industry, a major donor to the Republican Party, said the repeal of the 1987 tax credit would drive jobs out of state. The House flatly rejected the Senate's idea and kept the tax credit on the books, where Negron is again targeting it for elimination. The Senate estimates that wiping out the tax credit is worth about $300 million a year in tax savings.

"I think there's a better way to deploy $300 million than to hand-pick one industry to subside their labor costs," Negron told the Times/Herald Tuesday. "We have a choice to continue a subsidy that's no longer necessary or put the money back in the pockets of hard-working Floridians. That will be the choice."

Negron said his proposal should fare better in the House in 2017 than it did before because House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, opposes the Legislature "picking winners and losers ... (and has said) we shouldn't be disrupting market forces."