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House and Senate reach agreement on tax breaks and fee cuts

The House and Senate agreed on a package of tax and fee cuts that includes tax breaks for school supplies, hurricane supplies, youth bike helmets, medicinal pet food, and college meal plans that next year will cost the state $105 million and local governments $27 million.

When combined with $400 million in a reduction in annual auto registration fees that have already been signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, next year’s budget will include a total of $500 million in tax and fee cuts.

Absent from the tax package was a reduction in the communications services tax, that would have given a break for millions of cable and phone subscribers that Senators had promised last month.

But according to Senate Appropriations Chair Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the savings from that tax cut for the average consumer was nominal, ranging between a 40 cent to 80 cent tax break on a monthly bill, and therefore not worth it.

“It’s such a low amount I don’t think it represents a significant tax reduction,” Negron said. The package, HB 5601, also won’t include a loan program for qualified television and film industry projects. That's been a huge priority for the South Florida and Tampa Bay regions.

"Unfortunately, we're dying on the one-yard line," said Sen. Nancy Detert, the Venice Republican championing film industry incentives.


Here’s what the package includes:

-- $40 million ($32 million state; $7.3 million local) in a sales tax holiday for a tax holiday on Aug. 1-3 for “back-to-school” sales. It includes no sales tax on clothing less than $100, school supplies that are more than $15 but less than $100, and the first $750 spent on personal computer equipment.

-- a $4 million “hurricane preparedness” holiday on June 1 to June 12 for supplies like fuel tanks, flash lights, first aid kits and reusable ice, which would cost the state $3 million.

--  $1.7  million tax holiday on the first $1,500 spent on energy-efficient products, ENERGY STAR or WaterSense products on Sept. 19 to Sept. 21.

-- $2.5 million in child booster seats

-- $200,000 in youth bike helmets

-- $3.7 million for cement mixers

-- $2.8 million for therapeutic pet foods

-- $14.2 million for college meal plans

-- $9.3 million on sales tax on bad credit card debt

-- $700,000 on bail bonds

-- $5 million in cigarette tax revenue directed to Moffitt Cancer Center