Florida Legislative Preview - 2012
Redistricting won't completely dominate the legislative landscape in January. A look at other issues percolating in the background and who wants what.
• ONLINE HOTEL BOOKINGS — Online travel companies like Expedia, Priceline and Hotels.com pay taxes on the bulk, wholesale price they pay to hotels for unbooked rooms — not on the marked-up, retail rate they charge their online customers. Business lobby Associated Industries of Florida, along with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, argue that the rules give online travel firms a competitive advantage and leave the hotels paying the bulk of the taxes. Online travel companies say the difference between the wholesale price and retail price is simply a service fee that shouldn't be taxed. Last year, Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) and Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) introduced legislation that would exempt the online travel companies from having to pay taxes on their retail room sales. The Florida Chamber is siding with the online travel companies.
• MORE ONLINE — The Florida Retail Federation says retailers with actual stores are at a disadvantage competing against online sellers like Amazon.com that don't collect sales tax in Florida. The federation wants the state to sign an interstate compact known as the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which encourages Congress to pass federal legislation allowing states to require internet sellers to collect sales tax. A number of internet retailers have indicated they'll voluntarily collect the tax if enough states sign the compact.
The Florida Retail Federation wants the state to encourage federal legislation requiring internet sellers to collect sales tax.
• TANGIBLES — Gov. Rick Scott wants to increase the corporate tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 and reduce the Tangible Personal Property Tax, which is paid by 300,000 business owners. Scott wants the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would completely exempt any business with less than $50,000 in tangible personal property from having to pay the tax.
• ENERGY — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam wants to keep tax exemptions on investments in renewable energy production and to enhance the Public Service Commission's ability to factor in fuel diversity, price stability, reliability and security benefits in setting rates.
• MANUFACTURING — The Manufacturers Association of Florida wants the state to eliminate a requirement that companies show a 10% increase in productivity from the purchase of manufacturing machinery and equipment in order to qualify for a sales tax exemption on the purchase.
• UNEMPLOYMENT — The Retail Federation will seek relief from an increase in the unemployment compensation tax, which jumped by about $60 per employee last year and may go up by an additional $100 per employee this year.