(The Center Square) – Tax cuts, COVID-19 liability protections, adopting an “e-fairness” bill, tax credits to incentivize investment in manufacturing and encourage contributions to the state’s unemployment fund, and a sales tax holiday for restaurants are among next year's legislative priorities for a coalition of Florida employers.
The Restore Economic Strength through Employment & Tourism (RESET) Task Force, which formed in April to provide recommendations in guiding Florida’s post-pandemic recovery, submitted its final report to Gov. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers this week.
RESET, spearheaded by the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), Florida Retail Federation (FRF), National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA), includes more than 60 associations representing health care, agriculture hospitality, tourism, manufacturing and retail employers.
The report is compiled from findings by RESET’s 130-member task force’s 10 working groups, which studied agriculture, health care, hospitality and tourism, large and small employers, legal liability and legal reform, manufacturing and supply chain, retail, taxation, and transportation and infrastructure.
RESET’s report offers a 2021 “wish list” of recommendations to boost the state’s immediate pandemic recovery but also includes long-term suggestions, such as developing the “training infrastructure that targets 21st century skills and career paths while target filling high-wage, high-skill career vacancies in advanced manufacturing.”
Among RESET’s legislative priorities are proposed reductions in the state’s corporate income tax, communications services tax, business rental tax (BRT) and exemptions for essential businesses and essential workers “entirely from COVID-19 liability.”
The task force called on lawmakers to clarify “which type of wage classification is deemed as essential workers” and to address COVID-19 liability “as quickly as possible to avoid acts which would only serve to harm the business recoveries needed to get our state back on track.”
Among other recommendations is to make permanent an alcohol-to-go COVID-19 policy to allow restaurants to sell alcohol with to-go food orders and a short-term sales tax holiday for restaurants and bars.
RESET also called on lawmakers to:
• Adopt an “e-fairness” bill that requires online sellers to collect and remit sales tax “to ensure consistency in sales tax collection requirements between online marketplaces and Florida retailers;”
• Adopt a Manufacturing Jobs and Recovery Investment Act that “leverages future state tax credits to incentivize investments today in manufacturing and small businesses crucial to the supply chain for food, technology, health care equipment and medicine;”
• Create a tax credit for employers to contribute to the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund and do not “penalize businesses for COVID-related layoffs by counting them against the experience-based tax rate;”
RESET called for focusing recovery efforts into the “three-legged stool” of Florida’s economy – tourism, agriculture and construction – but also into emerging job generators, noting Florida’s economy has been “driven by a highly diverse range of business and industry sectors” for 20 years.
“COVID-19 has had a terrible effect” on Florida’s $90 billion hospitality industry, but the state’s agricultural and construction sectors are stable, the report stated before recommending lawmakers address these sectors:
• International trade: Florida’s $117.6 billion maritime industry, the nation’s second-largest largest, generates more than 900,000 direct and indirect jobs across the country. “With multiple deep-water ports, excellent air-transport capabilities and a growing distribution capability” sustained investment is warranted, RESET stated.
• Aerospace: According to Space Florida, more than 17,100 commercial companies employ at least 130,000 residents in high-tech, high-wage jobs within Florida’s $20 billion aerospace industry.
• Biotech: Florida is “home to world-renowned” biomedical institutes, pharmaceutical and medical device companies and more than 200 pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies, RESET stated.
• Financial services: According to Enterprise Florida, finance, insurance and professional services employ 9% of the state’s workforce, with nearly 135,000 firms employing over 900,000 Floridians.