Gov. Rick Scott touts tax cuts, lower fees in “listening” tour

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday launched his four-day image-rebuilding “listening tour” to promote his call for cuts of $500 million in taxes and fees, making stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

Scott did not spell out any specific taxes or fees he wanted to cut, but entertained ideas from mostly business owners in both South Florida cities.

“My primary goal next session will be to reduce taxes and fees in the state by $500 million,” Scott told the crowd in Fort Lauderdale.

Scott’s proposal will be made at the same time he embarks on a re-election campaign. He could potentially be running against his predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat.

He made a comical nod to the political backdrop when a businessman suggested that cutting sales tax on commercial leases would grow jobs — though not overnight.

“Just by next November,” quipped Scott.

Scott — as he’s done before — contrasted job losses under Crist (without naming him) with job growth during his tenure. He made those comments without acknowledging that the economy tanked nationally during Crist’s tenure and improved during his own.

Scott’s staff displayed a few posters listing various ideas for “tax cuts for Florida families” including car registration fees, sales tax holiday, property taxes and communications services tax. Another displayed “tax cuts for job creators,” such as the business tax and sales tax on commercial leases.

The crowd of business leaders pushed heavily for the sales tax cut on commercial leases. Scott seemed very interested in that idea and said that Florida is the only state in the country that charges that particular tax — though he later said New York City also does.

Other suggestions included a week-long tax holiday for businesses to make major purchases, while another complained about the high penalties for businesses that pay their taxes late.

Florida House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, mocked Scott’s tour as a campaign stunt.

“Instead of touting taxpayer giveaways that favor wealthy special interests and the politically connected, Governor Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders should focus on the needs of working families,” said Thurston in a statement. “Rather than gimmicks, it’s time that Florida’s leaders get serious about better funding for public schools, community colleges and universities.”

Scott continues his tour on Wednesday with a planned stop in Jacksonville. He is scheduled to visit Tampa on Thursday and end the tour in Orlando on Friday.