TALLAHASSEE -- The drive to remove about half the unpopular 2009 hike on vehicle-registration fees quickly got a green light in its first Senate committee today.
The Senate Transportation Committee wasted little time in unanimously backing the proposal (SB 156) by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to provide an average $12 in savings for each vehicle registration.
This bill is very simple,” Negron said.
The simplest part is that the bill doesn’t carry the baggage a similar measure had last session that led to its demise.
Rather than the Senate’s earlier plan to pay for the reduction by eliminating a tax break that has been enjoyed by the politically influential insurance industry since the 1980s, the revised proposal now takes the money from general revenue.
Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson said that by not seeking to eliminate the insurance tax credit, which covered about 15 percent of salaries paid to Florida-based employees of insurers, the proposal is a lot more palatable to business.
“Forget that it was insurance, when you tell an entire industry that after you move your jobs here, you can’t use it after they’re all here, we didn’t think it was good policy to change the policy midstream,” Wilson said.
The tax credit has been estimated as providing the insurance industry with $3.34 billion is tax breaks since 1987.
Staff analysis of the bill projects the proposal as collectively saving motorists $182 million during the next budget year, growing to $239 million the following year and $244 million a year later.
Negron said he’s been advised the updated savings should be $233 million a year, starting next year, which is nearly half the $500 million that Gov. Rick Scott wants to reduce in taxes and fees during the 2014 session. The vehicle-registration fees were increased in 2009 to help close a budget shortfall.
“I’m confident that 2014 will be the year we can finally make this tax relief a reality for every Floridian who drives a car,” Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in a release after the committee meeting. “And I’m hopeful this legislation will be the foundation of a 2014 tax relief package that will benefit hard-working Floridians across our state.”
The proposal still has stops planned in the Appropriations Committee, which Negron chairs, and the Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
The House version (HB 61) has been assigned to the Finance and Tax Subcommittee, the Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee, but it has not been scheduled for consideration.