Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Scott-O-Meter

Will oppose and veto any tax increases

"I pledge to the taxpayers of the state of Florida that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes."


Updates

With Legislature's help, Scott keeps his promise on taxes

Rick Scott made it crystal clear in first run for governor he was no fan of taxes, promising to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes." With less than five months to go until voters decide if he deserves a second term, we decided to revisit his pledge on our Scott-O-Meter.

Scott seems to have kept his word -- with a little bit of help.

"It's been easy, if you will, because the Legislature hasn't raised taxes," Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, a business-backed institute focused on tax issues.

Our own review found no serious attempts by the Legislature to raise taxes on Floridians during any session, despite facing years with budget deficits.

Calabro said the closest lawmakers came to raising taxes was in 2013, when the Senate considered a proposal to end a 15 percent premium tax credit for insurance companies in exchange for rolling back Charlie Crist-era increases in car registration fees. The proposal failed, though. Car registration fees ended up being reduced a year later, in 2014.

"I haven't seen a case where he hasn't followed through," Calabro said.

Beyond this year's registration fee cuts, Scott most recently trumpeted HB 5601, an election-year tax cut package the included several sales tax holidays and sales tax breaks on things like child bicycle helmets and car seats and diet pet food. Both the governor's office and his campaign told us his opposition to new taxes remains.

There's one other case that's worth mentioning: Amazon's arrival in Florida, with distribution centers in Lakeland and Ruskin. Because of its new physical presence in the state, Amazon began collecting state sales tax on purchases made by Floridians, a 6 percent charge not previously placed on customers.

Scott had initially opposed the move, saying there should be a mechanism in place to offset those taxes with cuts elsewhere. He eventually reversed himself on that in 2013, in favor of the almost 3,000 jobs the facilities would bring to the state. Many critics said this went against his promise to prevent new taxes.

Collecting sales tax from online businesses, though, was not a new law. In fact, there's a form (called the DR-15MO) on the Department of Revenue website specifically for everyone to report online and out-of-state purchases for the purpose of paying state income taxes.

This "use tax" dates back to 1949. Chances are you've never heard of it, because the state doesn't have the resources to enforce it for such small amounts of revenue.

The case of Amazon is a tricky one, since technically the tax was already on the books. Given Scott's overall track record of opposing all other tax increases, it's not enough for us to downgrade him for keeping his promises. Scott promised to oppose and veto new tax increases, and overall, he's done that. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

Orlando Sentinel, Our take on: Online sales tax, Dec. 27, 2011

PolitiFact Florida, "Rick Scott claims 24 tax cuts for Florida since 2011," June 3, 2013

Lakeland Ledger, "Florida Gov. Rick Scott Rejects Amazon Warehouse Deal," May 16, 2013

WUSF, "Governor Scott Changes His Mind on Amazon Deal," June 14, 2013

PolitiFact Florida, "Gov. Scott claims he 'cut taxes 40 times for Florida families', May 21, 2014

Florida Today, "Amazon.com begins charging tax today in Florida," May 8, 2014

University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research, "Florida Sales Tax Policy and Internet Sales," accessed June 17, 2014

Interview with Greg Blair, Scott for Florida spokesman, June 12, 2014

Interview with John Tupps, Executive Office of the Governor spokesman, June 17, 2014

Interview with Jerry Donnini, Fort Lauderdale tax attorney, June 17, 2014

Interview with Dominic Calabro, Florida Tax Watch president, June 17, 2014

No tax increases seriously considered in 2011

Rick Scott pledged to oppose and veto any effort to raise taxes to balance the state budget during his campaign for governor.

No tax increase was seriously considered by the Legislature in 2011 for Scott to oppose or veto.

In 2012, we'll be keeping an eye on a plan being pushed by some legislators to start collecting sales taxes on online purchases. Proponents of the measure say online retailers like Amazon have been given an unfair advantage over local Florida business.

Scott has said he's willing to support the proposal but only if the online sales tax is offset by an equal amount of tax cuts.

The tax trade -- if it were to pass -- would come with additional questions for the Scott-O-Meter to consider. Could the state really create a dollar-for-dollar match to avoid a tax increase? And would the new system result in a tax increase for some Floridians while decreasing taxes for others?

But that's for another time. For now we rate this promise In the Works.

Sources:

Orlando Sentinel, online sales tax editorial, Dec. 27, 2011

E-mail interview with Scott spokeswoman Amy Graham, Dec. 28, 2011