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House Tax Cut "Patchwork" Questioned in Senate Review

A preliminary Senate review of the House's "patchwork of awesomeness" highlighted the differences between the two chambers working to finalize Gov. Rick Scott's election-year tax cuts.

Members of the Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday maintained support for cuts the panel had already approved as individual bills, including a reduction in the communications services tax and sales tax holidays for back-to-school items, rather than the House's single package (HB 5601).

"A lot of things in that tax package either we don't have as a Senate bill or have never been heard here," said subcommittee Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange.

Senate leaders sent the House bill, approved by the House last week, on a unique committee journey, bypassing the usual process of taking it up on the floor. The House's tax plan, scrutinized on Wednesday by the subcommittee, will be vetted by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, where it is expected to be amended before reaching the Senate floor.

Sen. Jeremy Ring urged his colleagues to back the measures they have already reviewed and questioned the committee review process. Ring called some of the House proposals "troubling" because they had not previously been aired by any Senate committee.

"We did a lot of work on this committee, this seems extremely odd to me," Ring, D-Margate, said. "It's just not part at all of our normal process of how we do things as the Florida Senate."

Both chambers are seeking to round out the remainder of Scott's request for $500 million in tax cuts.

Scott has already signed into law the centerpiece of his request, a nearly $400 million reduction in state revenue that rolled back the 2009 increase in vehicle registration fees. The law, expected to save motorists between $20 and $25 per vehicle, goes into effect Sept. 1.

The House package includes a number of the Senate measures as well as tax breaks for cement mixers, child car seats and bicycle helmets, along with a sales tax holiday on gym memberships.

House Finance and Tax Committee Chairman Ritch Workman, whose panel crafted the package he labeled a "patchwork of awesomeness," said Wednesday that the on-going review ordered by Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, is "more messy, I think, but more public."

"I sent them a $150 million package... I may get back a $300 million package," Workman, R-Melbourne, said. "We'll see. I have no idea what they're going to send. When I will worry about it is when they do send it back."

Gaetz said Wednesday morning he didn't "have a set of favorites" from the House plan but expected his members to use the committee reviews to prepare for upcoming budget talks.

During Wednesday's Senate subcommittee meeting, Sen. Andy Gardner, R-Orlando, said that members needed to become familiar with the House's proposal now because lawmakers are taking next week off for the Passover and Easter holidays.

Source: News Service of Florida