A ‘tax stunt?’: Mixed reviews on DeSantis’ sweeping tax holiday legislative proposals

By: - September 21, 2022 3:42 pm
american dollars

American dollars. Credit: WIkimedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis this week announced an extensive slate of potential tax relief for the 2023 legislative session, targeting expenses typically associated with families — but not everyone sees the effort as an overall benefit for Floridians.

His proposals included extending the back-to-school tax break holiday, creating permanent tax relief for strollers and cribs, and establishing a full-year tax exemption on household products under $25 dollars.

During press conference Tuesday in Bradenton, that last point elicited a handful of ‘woahs’ from the audience.

But a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy and research organization called the Florida Policy Institute was less impressed, questioning the effectiveness of tax holidays overall.

“The permanent exemptions on baby and toddler necessities, cribs and strollers, and temporary exemptions on books, toys, and household items would certainly help families navigate the increasing cost of living and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic,” FPI CEO Sadaf Knight said in a written statement Tuesday.

“We are, however, dismayed that the proposal includes a continuation of the annual sales tax holidays. Research shows that sales tax holidays hardly provide any relief to Florida’s families, nor do they provide a significant boost to retailers or the state’s economy.”

Knight explains:

“They siphon revenue away from much-needed investments that would have wide reaching benefits across the state — investments in education, housing, health care, and more. There are better, proven ways to target relief to Floridians struggling to make ends meet than through sales tax holidays.”

‘Stunt’

DeSantis Watch, a joint effort by Progress Florida and Florida Watch to defeat DeSantis in his reelection efforts, called the sweeping tax holiday proposal a “tax stunt.”

“When Floridians needed real relief from rising rents, skyrocketing property insurance rates, and out of control utility bills, Ron DeSantis instead did the bidding of developers, billionaires, insurance companies, and the corporate utilities that fund his political campaigns,” DeSantis Watch communications director Anders Croy said in a press release Tuesday.

“Instead of spending the more than $20 billion in budget surpluses on teacher raises, rent relief, or an immediate gas tax cut for Floridians, Ron hoarded the money and let everyday people suffer in order to allow his donors to rake in record profits while he campaigned for higher office.”

One of the tax holidays that came out of the 2022 legislative session was a month-long hold on gas tax collections, passed earlier this year at a time where prices were increasing across the United States.

But Floridians have not even seen the benefit of reduced gas taxes yet as the holiday is not slated to get started until October, right before the gubernatorial election.

Croy of DeSantis Watch continued: “Students, workers, and seniors in Florida didn’t need a $2 billion giveaway to the insurance industry or tax refunds for our wealthiest corporations, they need real relief in the most unaffordable state in the country for housing, and today’s announcement won’t keep a roof over anyone’s head in our state tonight.”

DeSantis did briefly discuss a property tax relief ballot initiative for certain front-line workers that Floridians could vote for or against in November during his press conference.

“And I would also point folks to — and I supported — with the Legislature putting some of these initiative on the ballot for some property tax relief for our first responders and nurses and teach—,” DeSantis said Tuesday, not finishing the final word, which may have been ‘teachers,’ who would be included.

Support for plan

Meanwhile, another tax-focused nonprofit called Florida TaxWatch threw its support behind DeSantis’ proposals.

“Florida TaxWatch commends Gov. DeSantis and enthusiastically supports his Family-Focused Tax Relief proposal, as it will relieve this incremental yet substantial burden on hard-working men and women across the state who are doing their best to provide for their families and help them have full, productive lives,” Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of the organization, said in a written statement.

Calabro said TaxWatch looks forward “to continuing this incredibly important conversation into the 2023 legislative session and beyond.”

The proposals range from various family costs, expenses associated with pets, and continuing previous tax holidays from this fiscal year.

The GOP-controlled Legislature would have to approve bills before DeSantis can sign off on the proposed tax holidays. That is assuming he wins his reelection bid and is not unseated by his Democratic opponent, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

Here’s the full swath of proposed tax holidays, which DeSantis claims could result in some $1.1 billion in tax savings:

  • Two-week back-to-school tax holiday for the fall semester and an additional spring two-week holiday for school supplies.
  • A permanent tax exemption for baby and toddler necessities for kids under the age of five.
  • Permanent tax exemption for cribs and strollers.
  • Permanent tax exemption on items that contain medicinal ingredients and medical equipment.
  • 1-year tax exemption for household items under $25. This would include cleaning products, toilet paper, trash bags, and other items.
  • 1-year tax exemption for children’s books for children under 17 years old.
  • 1-year tax exemption for children’s toys designated for kids under age 12.
  • 1-year tax exemption for children’s athletic equipment.
  • 1-year tax exemption on pet food for household pets.
  • Permanent tax exemption for over-the-counter pet medications.
  • Continuing certain tax holidays from the 2022-23 fiscal year.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.

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