Bill Galvano, José Oliva look to trim lease tax

News Service Of Florida

Florida lawmakers will continue to chip away at a commercial lease tax that has been a target of the business community for most of Gov. Rick Scott’s term, according to the incoming leaders of the House and Senate.

Appearing Friday at the state Republican Party’s “Sunshine Summit” in Kissimmee, incoming House Speaker José Oliva and incoming Senate President Bill Galvano outlined their expectations for the next two years, with many of the ideas a continuation of the direction of recent Republican-dominated legislatures.

They talked of seeking further reductions in taxes and fees, improving security at ports and schools, upgrading transportation, water and electric infrastructure, expanding health-care options and school choice and providing more career options for students by promoting skill-training and technology programs.

Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, said the biggest thing for lawmakers is to mostly “get out of the way.”

“Our job is to build roads, to build infrastructures, to make sure there is a judiciary system for everyone and people’s rights are protected,” Oliva said.

Meanwhile, Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, expressed a desire to revisit the commercial lease tax, which will drop from 5.8 percent to 5.7 percent on Jan. 1 as part of a roughly $170 million tax package (HB 7087) that was approved in March. That package goes into effect Sunday with the new fiscal year.

“The commercial lease tax is one I think we need to take another hard look at,” Galvano said.

The lease tax is imposed on commercial rental properties, and the reduction is expected to account for $12.9 million of the tax package in the coming fiscal year.

Galvano said he also wants lawmakers to again consider sales-tax “holidays,” which allowed Floridians to avoid paying taxes on emergency preparation gear at the start of hurricane season and will allow families to avoid paying taxes on back-to-school items during a period in August.

After their panel appearance Friday at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Oliva gave his full support to Galvano’s comment on the lease tax, which in 2015 generated $1.5 billion and has been projected by the state Department of Revenue to grow to $2 billion in 2020.

“I’m opposed to all taxes,” Oliva told reporters.

The lease tax was lowered from 6 percent to 5.8 percent last year.

Under a proposal filed during the 2018 session, the House initially sought to drop the rate to 5 percent, which was projected to save $218 million for businesses.

The House later revised its request to 5.5 percent before agreeing to 5.7 percent after lawmakers shifted spending following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Galvano and Oliva will formally move into their leadership posts after the November elections.

In discussing a need for the state to focus on infrastructure improvements, Galvano told reporters he’s following the private investments being made into “livable cities” in the Tampa Bay area, a proposed private high-speed rail system between Tampa and Orlando and an enhanced use of autonomous vehicle programs.

“There is a lot that we can look at that is, in my opinion, a role for government, not just trying to cherry-pick certain industries,” Galvano said.