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Property insurance: Could homeowners soon see some relief?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A tax package that began moving forward Tuesday in the Senate and a revised tax proposal in the House could provide some assistance to homeowners with property insurance costs.

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The Senate and House have released the tax proposals as they prepare during the next two weeks to negotiate a budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. The chambers are in sync on holding a series of sales-tax “holidays,” but the Senate has not gone along with a House proposal to temporarily lower a commercial-lease tax.

Senate Finance and Tax Chairman Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said state economists have reported the nation is entering a period where “excess general revenue is going to be harder to come by.”

“I would hate to have small businesses sit there and have a lower business rent tax this year and all of a sudden, if there’s not enough money in there to bring it down permanently, then we’re going to have to raise it back up,” Ingoglia said.

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The proposed Senate and House packages would be less than the $1.3 billion in tax breaks that the state provided in the current fiscal year, which will end June 30.

The Senate proposal (SPB 7074) is projected to reduce state and local government revenue by $630.6 million in the 2024-2025 fiscal year. That includes providing insurance-related breaks, including exemptions from insurance-premium taxes — an idea recommended by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Before it added the insurance component, the House proposal (HB 7073) totaled $647.3 million in tax cuts for next fiscal year.

House and Senate Democrats said they think the proposals need to more directly assist Floridians.

Read: This property insurance company wants to raise premiums by 53% in Florida

House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said the package continues to display “a prioritization for businesses over consumers.”

But House Ways & Means Chairman Stan McClain, R-Ocala, replied, “We believe that all consumers would benefit from any of the tax cuts.”

“As we tried to balance out where we are, I think from a budgetary perspective and the dollars available, I think it’s a good package,” McClain said.

A Senate staff analysis said the Senate’s proposed insurance tax changes would amount to $211.3 million during the 2024-2025 fiscal year and that additional savings would come in the next year. Ingoglia said policyholders would save about 3.5 percent on their homeowners’ premiums.

Read: Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to offload thousands of policies this month. Here’s why.

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday revised its package to include an insurance-premium tax break for homeowners with property valued at $750,000 or less. But the House has not matched a Senate proposal for a tax exemption on flood insurance policies.

Meanwhile, both packages include a 14-day back-to-school tax holiday, when shoppers can buy such things as clothes, school supplies, and computers without paying sales taxes. The state held two back-to-school holidays this fiscal year.

Also, the packages include a one-month summer tax holiday on recreational purchases, ranging from camping gear to tickets for concerts and sporting events. That holiday was three months during this fiscal year.

Among other issues, the House proposes to extend for two years an annual distribution of $27 million in sales-tax money into the Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign Trust Fund for issues related to thoroughbred horse racing. The Senate package would make the tax distributions, first approved in 2023, permanent.

“The thoroughbred industry is a big economic driver in the state, and the return has been pretty good,” Ingoglia said.

Absent from the Senate plan is the largest part of the House package, a $339.6 million cut in the commercial-lease tax that business groups have long sought to eliminate.

The lease-tax rate is already set to go down from 4.5 percent to 2 percent in June, and the House would further lower it for a year to 1.25 percent starting July 1.

The House bill continued to draw concerns about a proposal that would limit new tourist-development taxes, often known as bed taxes, to six years. Also, it would require voter approval by July 1, 2029, for existing tourist-development taxes to continue.

The Senate is seeking to prohibit tourist development plans from allocating more than 25 percent of tax revenue in any fiscal year to single projects unless backed by supermajority votes of the local governments.

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