Florida Capitol complex (Richard Tribou)
TALLAHASSEE – Florida House Democrats on Wednesday released an alternate budget plan, with plans that include $1.8 billion in additional revenues received through closing tax loopholes and taxing online sales.
The “New Sunshine Deal” would use about $524 million of those revenues to give low-income families an average $500 tax rebate. House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee of Miami said the plan was designed to focus on working families that Republican leaders have ignored.
“Over the last 20 years the state budget has doubled while leaving hard working Floridians in the shadows,” McGhee said.
The rebate plan would be tied to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to households based on income and number of dependents. For example, a married household with two children earning $51,492 or less would qualify, according to the IRS. The state plan would give each eligible household 10 percent of their federal credit.
Rep. Amy Mercado, D-Orlando, said it would make Florida’s tax structure more progressive, lessening the burden on lower-income families.
“We’ve seen republican leadership over and over and over again attack families,” Mercado said. “The New Sunshine Deal understands that families need tax breaks.”
The rebate plan would be paid for in part by cracking down on offshore tax havens, which would generate an estimated $1.16 billion in additional revenues. Another $426 million would come from taxing online sales and another $218 million would come from closing 18 different sales tax loopholes.
Other parts of the plan include long-held items on the Democratic wish list – Medicaid expansion, a 13 percent raise for teachers while eliminating the GOP ‘Best and Brightest’ bonus program, eliminating the Hope Scholarships voucher program created last year for bullied students, full funding for affordable housing programs and increasing mental health funding.
There were some pieces, however, that aligned with Republican proposals in the past. The New Sunshine Deal includes a back-to-school sales tax holiday and a 0.2 percent commercial rent tax cut.
Outnumbered in the Legislature by Republicans, the Democrats’ plan is unlikely to move far this year, but McGhee said they plan to offer pieces of the plan as amendments to the budget on the House floor and will continue to negotiate with GOP leaders.
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