TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Ron DeSantis, running for re-election, pitched a $1.1 billion package of tax breaks Tuesday that could trim costs on items for toddlers, sports gear, pet food and school clothes and supplies.
The proposal would require approval from lawmakers during the 2023 legislative session and would be bankrolled through record state budget reserves, DeSantis said.
"We can do this tax relief, really, without breaking a sweat at this point," DeSantis said as he announced the proposal at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar Landside in Bradenton.
The progressive group DeSantis Watch called the proposal a "tax stunt" that wouldn’t provide "real relief in the most unaffordable state in the country for housing."
"Instead of spending the more than $20 billion in budget surpluses on teacher raises, rent relief, or an immediate gas tax cut for Floridians, Ron hoarded the money and let everyday people suffer in order to allow his donors to rake in record profits while he campaigned for higher office," Anders Croy, director of DeSantis Watch, said in a prepared statement.
Floridians "need real relief in the most unaffordable state in the country for housing, and today’s announcement won’t keep a roof over anyone’s head in our state tonight," Croy added.
But DeSantis said the reserves making the proposal possible are a result of Florida having "a lot of great economic activity. Our state policies are reinforcing that."
The proposal would expand parts of a tax package that lawmakers approved this year.
Among other things, it would provide permanent sales-tax exemptions for baby diapers, baby wipes, cribs, strollers and clothes and shoes for children under age 5. This year’s tax package included a one-year tax exemption for baby diapers and clothes.
DeSantis also proposed offering sales-tax exemptions for a year on books for readers under age 17, toys for children between ages 2 and 12 and athletic equipment --- from footballs and baseball bats to bicycles and rollerblades --- for kids under 18,
Also, for a year, DeSantis would create sales-tax exemptions on certain household items that cost under $25, such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap and trash bags.
DeSantis also wants taxes lifted for a year on household pet food and would create a permanent tax exemption for over-the-counter pet medications such as products for flea and tick prevention.
The proposal would continue sales-tax "holidays" offered this year on hurricane-season supplies, home-improvement items and outdoor-recreational items.
DeSantis also wants to provide more time for people to avoid paying sales taxes on school clothes and supplies. Under the proposal, the state would offer back-to-school tax holidays for 14 days before the fall semester and 14 days before the spring semester. In the past, such holidays have only been offered before the fall semester.
Earlier this month, DeSantis said he wants to expand on a current six-month program that gives breaks to certain commuters on tolls. He wants lawmakers to give frequent SunPass and E-Pass users 50 percent monthly credits for a full year.
The toll proposal could affect about 750,000 Floridians who frequently commute and save an average commuter about $550 a year.
Lost transportation funding would be made up by tapping a surplus of state general revenue.