It seems like just yesterday we were analyzing Gov. Rick Scott’s claim that he had cut taxes for Floridians 24 times. But on May 13, Scott’s campaign raised the count to 40.
“Governor Scott Cut Taxes 40 Times For Florida Families,” Scott for Florida announced on Twitter. “40 tax cuts in 4 years. #letskeepworking.”
Scott and the Legislature don’t have the budget shortfalls of years past, so tax cuts were the name of the game in Tallahassee in 2014, especially with Scott up for reelection. What were these new cuts he was touting? We hit the law books to find out.
In 2013, Scott defined a “tax cut” as anything that reduced government revenue by $3 million in a given year. That involved a lot of creative interpretation, such as considering a sales tax holiday a tax cut, then counting it each year. He also ruled reductions in automatic fee increases, tax credits and temporary measures as tax cuts. For 2014, this definition changed slightly, and Scott’s team also counted things that reduced government revenue by less than that.
In the 2014 legislative session, freed from having to deal with budget deficits, lawmakers passed two major bills for the governor to tout. One was SB 156, which reduced auto registration fees. The other was HB 5601, a wide-ranging tax cut package that included more sales tax holidays, business tax credits and tax exemptions for child booster seats, college meal plans and even certain pet foods.
After tweeting the good news, Scott’s campaign shared with us their list of 40 items, which actually totaled 41 things.
Experts PolitiFact Florida spoke with — both after this claim was made and last year when Scott was trumpeting 25 cuts — said the list contained several kinds of tax alterations that may or may not apply.
The sales tax holidays, like the sales tax exemptions, are based on consuming the goods covered by the policies. The exemptions are temporary, and the holidays, which have been offered off and on since 1998, can be suspended from year to year.
Counting tax credits is dubious, because that means you have to spend in one place to save in another. Preventing appraisers from raising property taxes for making an energy efficient improvement, for example, only benefits people who have already made capital improvements.
Similar is the elimination of scheduled increases in hunting and fishing licenses. The fee is still being paid, just not at a higher rate than it was.
Cuts in unemployment compensation may save businesses money, but they cost out-of-work Floridians money they would normally have. In fact, the bulk of the list is very friendly to businesses, but not your average taxpayer.
These changes also don’t take into account whether local governments have to raise taxes to offset losses to their revenue.
Scott for Florida tweeted, “Governor Scott Cut Taxes 40 Times For Florida Families,” highlighting a list that actually contained 41 items.
These tax cuts range from credits to exemptions to changing rates and penalties. The list focuses heavily on businesses, and like his original 24 cuts, is full of caveats. Some are counted more than once, some are only changes to scheduled increases. This year’s legislative session added a few more measures aimed at consumers, but businesses still benefit from much of it.
Scott’s tax claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.