Florida auto tag fees drop on Sept. 1

The reduction in vehicle-registration fees, one of two new laws going into effect Monday, is expected to save motorists $17 to $25 a year depending on the size of the vehicles.

08/31/2014 7:03 PM

08/31/2014 7:16 PM

A rollback in vehicle-registration fees, the key part of a $500 million package of tax and fee cuts approved this spring, kicks in Monday as Gov. Rick Scott starts to campaign for a new round of tax cuts.

The election-year reduction in vehicle-registration fees (SB 156), one of two new laws going into effect Monday, is expected to save motorists $17 to $25 a year depending on the size of the vehicles.

The other new law (SB 242) is intended to keep people from stealing the identities of children. The Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act, backed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, would allow parents or guardians to open a file in their child’s name with a major consumer credit bureau and then immediately put a freeze on the account.

However, the reduction in vehicle-registration fees will be the law highlighted over the next two weeks as Scott goes out on his latest campaign tour, this time hop-scotching the state with a pledge to cut $1 billion in taxes over the next two years.

At each stop, Scott will maintain support for a number of sales-tax shopping holidays, along with touting plans to cut the communications-services tax imposed on cable and phone services, eliminate a manufacturing sales tax, phase out both the corporate income tax and a sales tax on commercial leases and enact a constitutional amendment that would prevent residential property taxes from being increased when home values don’t go up.

During the tour, scheduled to touch down in 28 cities, Scott will also play up that the vehicle-registration fees were raised as part of a 2009 law signed by Democratic gubernatorial challenger Charlie Crist, then the Republican governor.

Crist’s campaign sent out a release seeking to label Scott’s campaign stops as the “empty promises tax tour.”

Scott considered the vehicle-registration fee reduction one of his “critical” priorities during the spring legislative session.

The cut to vehicle-registration fees is expected to trim state revenue by $309.1 million during the current 2014-15 fiscal year and $394.6 million in later years, when the cuts will be in effect for a full 12 months.

The vehicle fee change was included as part of the wide-ranging, $500 million “patchwork of awesomeness” tax package, so named by one of its chief architects, House Finance & Tax Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne. Among the items in the package were sales-tax holidays, a reduction in the insurance premium tax on bail-bond premiums, and the permanent elimination of sales taxes on college meal plans, therapeutic pet foods, child car seats and bicycle helmets for kids.

The Sept. 1 effective date for the vehicle registration-fee rollback was set to ensure the change could be implemented smoothly, said Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles spokesman John Lucas.

“With the amount of work that’s required to reduce fees and enter it into our system for more than 14 million vehicles that are affected by this fee reduction, it took some time,” Lucas said. “So, we thought September 1 would be a good target date to start from.”

Scott has made cutting taxes and fees a major focus of his administration and his reelection campaign.

The Republican first pledged to eliminate the state’s corporate income tax when he ran in 2010, along with calling for a $1.4 billion property-tax cut as part of a sweeping economic plan he said would not reduce school funding.

Efforts to cut taxes on commercial leases and the communications-services tax have stalled in the Legislature in recent years.

And Scott in 2013 requested a permanent tax cut for manufacturing machinery. Instead he had to wait until the final week of the legislative session before getting lawmakers to include a three-year temporary cut as part of a larger economic-incentives package.

During the campaign, he has repeatedly hammered Crist on tax issues. The increasing vehicle-registration fee was among a number of tax and fee measures that the Republican-dominated Legislature approved in 2009 as the state grappled with a budget shortfall that stemmed from the economic recession.

Other increases in 2009 included a hike in late-payment fees on driver’s license renewals, from $1 to $15. Also, the cost of an original driver’s license went from $27 to $48, first-time registrations of cars went from $100 to $225, and cigarette taxes were increased by $1 a pack.

As part of the upcoming tour, Scott will call for “eliminating more of Charlie Crist’s tax and fee increases,” including the hike on first-time car registrations, according to information released Friday by his campaign.

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