The challenge of the Legislature this year was passing a balanced budget without increasing taxes on our citizens. During these economic times, it is the position of this Legislature not to increase taxes on our businesses and families. As I look back on the last week of session, I know the passage of the budget was one of the largest tasks of the 2012 Session.
Many of you have called me at my office or stopped me in our community to advocate for programs that made a difference to our region and families throughout Manatee County. The emails you sent to me on the budget advocated an array of issues — everything from higher education to mental health funding to the protection of our local women’s transitional work release program — and I appreciate every single one of you for taking the time to be an advocate and an active participant in the crafting of our budget.
The biggest question we faced when passing the budget was how to allocate funds that provide services and make our community a better and safer place to live. This was not an easy task, but we accomplished our goal of filling the budget gap without tax hikes.
Helping make Florida affordable again and restoring Florida’s economy were your top directives to me, and I know that Florida’s $70 billion budget reflects that goal.
To accomplish those initiatives, we passed a bringing-jobs-to-our-community bill that provides tax refunds to businesses that create high-wage jobs in specific targeted industries through the Qualified Targeted Industries program and the Qualified Defense Contractor and Space Flight Business Tax Refund program.
We passed increases to Florida’s corporate income-tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 and created numerous tax incentives to support job creation in manufacturing and other important industries. We specifically helped our families and local businesses by passing a three-day non-recurring Sales Tax Holiday for the weekend of Aug. 3 to 5, 2012, exempting from the state sales tax certain clothing priced at $75 or less (employee uniforms, school clothes) and school supplies with a sales price of $15 or less.
Finally, we passed a full homestead property tax exemption to spouses of first responders who have been killed in the line of duty. This bill would go into effect once House Joint Resolution 93 Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder, which proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution, has been approved by the Florida voters.
I strongly believe that keeping Florida a low-tax, low-cost state is vital to our state’s prosperity. This year, we passed several pieces of legislation that will bring tax relief for our families and our local business. Just like Floridians have had to make difficult choices in cutting their spending to meet this demanding economic climate, the Legislature has done the same. This session, we made reductions that were necessary to balance our budget responsibly while making prudent investment in the programs and services that will revitalize our economy.
We all recognized the tough realities of our national economic picture, and we crafted a budget that looked beyond just the next year. This budget year brought heated debate and with it compromise. I know that the budget decisions that were made will make Florida a better place to live, work and raise a family.
State Rep. Greg Steube represents Florida District 67.