2016 Session - Sine Die
March 11, 2016
The 2016 Session of the Florida Legislature adjourned at 6:45 p.m. on Friday evening. Lawmakers passed an $82.3 billion budget with a rare 159-1 vote in the two chambers.
There was also an agreement on tax cuts, but the House and Governor’s $1 billion tax cut recommendation was cut to only $129 million. This includes some one-time tax relief, the recurring value of the cuts is only $78.9 million. The centerpiece of the tax plan is a Florida TaxWatch priority—making the sales tax exemption for manufacturing machinery and equipment permanent. This will save manufacturers $68.8 million annually. The other big tax relief measure is a scaled back 3-day “back to school” sales tax holiday. There are several other small (less than $2 million) tax adjustments.
We commend the Legislature for enacting various bills that advanced TaxWatch recommendations, including:
- Permanently extending the sales tax exemption on manufacturing equipment, which will boost Florida’s manufacturing industry, provide high-wage jobs for Floridians and diversify the state economy.
- Moving forward on telehealth by creating a Telehealth Advisory Council to make recommendations in forming a regulatory framework for Florida. Florida TaxWatch appreciates that the Legislature made a small step in addressing telehealth expansion in Florida but the legislation does not do enough in broadening access and lowering healthcare costs for millions of Floridians who desperately need care. We hope that the Legislature continues to work on this issue in 2017 and make a concentrated effort in truly expanding telehealth in the Sunshine State.
- Expanding scope of practice for advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) and physician assistants (PAs), which would significantly lower costs for patients while improving access across the state. We hope that the Legislature will continue to pass legislation to expand scope of practice in the 2017 Legislative session as TaxWatch research has found that if state ARNPs and PAs were permitted to practice to the full extent of their training and education, the state could save up to $339 million across the entire health care system.
- Various smart justice reforms, including increased use of veteran and drug courts, alternative sanctioning and expungement of juvenile records, which will reduce recidivism, improve job prospects for ex-offenders and result in cost-savings for the Sunshine State.
- Better integrating the state’s mental health and substance abuse services to improve access to care for Floridians suffering from complex behavioral health issues.
Florida TaxWatch also commends the Legislature for achieving record per-student funding for public schools, largely with state funds rather than using a large local property tax increase as has been the case the last couple of years.
However, there were some bills relating to TaxWatch recommendations that unfortunately will not make it to the Governor’s desk.
The business rent tax (BRT) is unique to Florida which is the only state that taxes commercial leases, preventing small businesses and start-ups from expanding and dissuading larger companies to relocate from other states. The House tax cut package originally had a cut to the BRT from six percent to five percent in fiscal year 2016-17. This provision was not included in the final package.
Properly deployed economic development incentives are crucial to ensuring that Florida is able to compete with peer states. These incentives help lure businesses to the state, leading to the creation of much needed jobs, more stable incomes and an increasingly diverse economic portfolio. One of the major components of improving Florida’s economic incentive programs was $250 million for a new Enterprise Florida Fund. While included in the Senate budget, the Fund was dropped from consideration during budget conference.