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Sales tax holidays approved by Gov Bush

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I can live with the sales tax holiday. This gas holiday has got to be the dumbest ideas I've heard. How much of this cut will consumers actually see?

from: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/8717833.htm

Governor approves summer tax breaks

Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law a nine-day sales-tax holiday on clothing, shoes, backpacks and books worth $50 or less, as well as an 8-cent-a-gallon cut in gas taxes for a month.


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TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law Thursday two tax breaks that will slash by a few pennies the price that shoppers and motorists will pay for clothes, books, school supplies and gasoline this summer.

While there are lingering doubts as to what kind of savings motorists will actually see when the tax break kicks in this August, there is no doubt as to the political mileage that Republican politicians hope to get. Gas prices have become the target of an ongoing presidential-election year tug of war between Republicans and Democrats.

The tax breaks were passed this spring by the Florida Legislature, largely at the urging of House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, a Republican seeking the U.S. Senate seat held by Bob Graham.

Bush had advocated reviving the state's popular sales-tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers, but it was Byrd who seized upon a gas-tax break first suggested by House Democrats and made it one of his top priorities for the 2004 session. The gas-tax break comes during the same month as the U.S. Senate primary.

''I said when we passed the bill that there are only two kinds of tax cuts: good and better,'' Byrd said in a statement Thursday. ``As the price of gasoline surpasses $2 a gallon, I only wish we could have done more to take the burden off Florida consumers.''


Republicans in the Legislature first pushed through a sales-tax holiday in 1998, but it was discontinued the past two years as lawmakers grappled to balance the budget.

Under this year's measure, shoppers will enjoy a nine-day sales tax holiday from July 24 to Aug. 1. Shoppers won't have to pay sales taxes on clothing, backpacks, and for the first time, books, that cost $50 or less each. Sales taxes also won't be charged on school supplies costing $10 or less.

''I am pleased to welcome Florida's tax holiday back in 2004,'' said Bush in a statement. ``I have always believed it's the right thing to do to help Florida shoppers, readers and drivers keep more of their hard-earned money.''

The gas-tax break is intended to slash the state's 14.3 cent a gallon gas tax by 8 cents during August. But even when it was enacted, some Senate and House Republicans expressed skepticism about how much savings would be passed on to consumers. AAA, which has more than 2.9 million Floridians as members, opposed the tax cut, saying it wouldn't work as advertised.

That's because the state's gas tax is charged to less than 40 gasoline terminal suppliers, not to the actual 9,200 gas-station owners around the state. There are fears that overall gas prices will rise at the same time that the tax break is enacted, making it hard for consumers to actually get the full tax break.

''In order for the consumer to recognize any substantial benefit, the prices will have to stay at a constant for 30 days,'' said Gregg Laskoski, managing director of public and government relations for AAA Auto Club South.

House Republicans tried to guarantee the gas-tax break by making it a third-degree felony for any supplier or retailer to fail to pass on the savings. Legislators have also given the state Department of Revenue $310,000 to do a public-awareness campaign on the gas-tax break. Consumers will be urged to use a website that reports any suspicions of price gouging to Attorney General Charlie Crist.


Gas-station owners say they are worried because they have little control over the ebb and flow of gas prices.

''I'm absolutely certain that there's going to be people accused of committing a felony,'' said Jim Smith, president and chief executive officer of Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which represents 5,400 independently owned gas stations. ``It's going to be a nightmare.''

Smith said his group had recommended sending a check to every Florida motorist instead of handing out a gas-tax break, which will may be minimal, but also would be handed out to tourists.

The combined cost of the two tax breaks is more than $95 million. Legislators also this year enacted a corporate income tax break that is expected to take at least $120 million from state coffers as part of an overall deal on the $58 billion state budget. Bush received the actual budget on Thursday and will have 15 days in which to veto specific items contained in the nearly 400-page spending plan.

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SC has a similar "tax-free weekend" where shoppers can take advantage of of back to school discounts and zero sales tax on back-to-school related things (clothes, books, etc). This tax free weekend is very popular, and very successful... I just wish we had that gasoline in there as well!

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