Happytown: Is the manufacturing sales tax cut constitutional? 

Bill passed with less than 2/3 required supermajority

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$115 MILLION

PROJECTED ANNUAL LOST REVENUE FOR THE STATE UNDER GOV. RICK SCOTT’S MANUFACTURING SALES TAX CUT, EXPECTED TO BE SIGNED INTO LAW

 

$26 MILLION

PROJECTED ANNUAL LOST REVENUE FOR CITY AND COUNTY GOVERNMENTS UNDER THE NEW LAW.

 

68-48

THE VOTE MARGIN IN THE FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES WHEN THE MANUFACTURING BILL PASSED THE HOUSE ON MAY 2 – 12 VOTES SHORT OF THE 2/3 SUPERMAJORITY CONSTITUTIONALLY REQUIRED FOR MEASURES WITH “SIGNIFICANT IMPACT” OF MORE THAN $1.9 MILLION

 

“I THINK THE BILL IS EXTREMELY CONSTITUTIONAL. WE DO NOT BELIEVE [THAT SECTION OF THE CONSTITUTION] APPLIES. I CAN’T GIVE YOU ALL THE SPECIFICS. WE TALKED WITH OUR ATTORNEYS. WE HAD AN ENTIRE TEAM THAT LOOKED AT IT AND STUDIED IT. WE DO NOT BELIEVE IT REQUIRED A TWO-THIRDS VOTE.”
– FLORIDA HOUSE SPEAKER WILL WEATHERFORD, R-WESLEY CHAPEL
SOURCES: TAMPA BAY TIMES, ORLANDO SENTINEL

 

VICTORY LACK

Just as everyone with a political blog and half a brain was laughing at the pieces of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s failure to fully achieve his stated priorities over the course of this year’s legislative session – teacher raises will not be applied across the board (but rather with oblique merit judgments), a late-in-the-game cottoning to Medicaid expansion went down in flames – Scott was nonetheless gearing up for a series of victory tours this month to celebrate, apparently, opposite day. Everything’s fine when you’re running for re-election!

On May 14, Scott trickled his way down to Orlando for an appearance at a local Frito-Lay factory – the oldest one in operation for the 75-year-old company – to memorialize his huge victory on a manufacturing sales tax he wanted to see cut. Frito-Lay, as the regional vice president indicated at a blue-in-the-collar press conference, is a subsidiary of PepsiCo, meaning all that good the company brings to our collective digestive tracts could clearly use some good ol’ fashioned cost cutting, because corporations are poor.

Of course the problem with Scott claiming victory on the manufacturing issue is that he didn’t play by the rules. Nonpartisan staff studies clearly stated that the bill containing the elimination of sales taxes on equipment for manufacturing companies would fall under Article VII, Section 18 of the state constitution, meant to protect local governments from clumsy statewide fiscal brushstrokes. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projected that the cut might set local governments back some $26 million a year, so it would only make sense that any vote on the matter would fall under the two-thirds majority clause typically required.

Last week, staff analysts – presumably under the direction of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who has denied any wrongdoing in passing the bill despite threats of a lawsuit from Democrats – conveniently altered their assessment of the bill. A Weatherford spokesperson, reports the Tampa Bay Times, says that the bill has “no significant impact,” which is rich, considering that an annual impact of $140 million to state and local coffers positively reeks of Cool Ranch significance.

Also somewhat odorous was the presence of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer at the governor’s corn-chip victory lap appearance. Dyer used the opportunity to tout all of the other kinds of manufacturing – bombs, mostly – Orlando provides a suitable home to, and reminded everybody that Frito-Lay previously partnered with the city on environmental initiatives like electronic delivery trucks. Then, without so much as an ironic bat of the eyelash, he thanked the governor for the cut that could potentially hobble Orlando’s economy. Was Buddy craving chips?

Anyway, for his part, Scott stretched his cracked victory smile across a platitude that overstated the value of his latest corporate welfare salvo.

“Manufacturers in Florida have been disadvantaged for too long because we were one of few states that taxed the purchasing of manufacturing equipment,” Scott said in a statement, according to the Times. “With this legislation, Florida is now on a level playing field.”

Or, just below sea level.

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