Jacksonville “pension tax” bill clears 2nd Senate committee

Lenny Curry Headshot

Monday saw the Florida Senate Finance and Tax Committee pass the Discretionary Sales Surtax bill that would allow a referendum authorizing the half cent Better Jacksonville Plan sales tax to be extended until 2060, to pay off Jacksonville’s unfunded pension liability.

Ahead of the committee meeting, Lenny Curry lobbied committee members, via private January meetings with Curry and Republican members Anitere Flores and Wilton Simpson, as well as Democratic Vice Chairman Joseph Abruzzo.

Meanwhile, committee Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill got a timely donation from Curry’s PAC, Build Something That Lasts, in January.

None of that, however, assures a favorable hearing for legislation. What does assure such a favorable hearing, however is an able steward of the bill through the legislative process, such as Sen. Rob Bradley, who worked with staff to ensure that the “committee made a good bill better” via crafting amendments that gave Chairwoman Hukill and others more “certainty.”

Also assuring such a favorable hearing was support from the Florida League of Cities and the Florida League of Counties (facts which should cheer Matt Schellenberg to no end), coupled with Fire Union Chief Randy Wyse showing up to wave in support.

To get the bill through committee, and ultimately through Tallahassee, there is a measure of the city having to throw past leadership under the bus, as witnessed by Bradley’s comments to the committee, which included phrases like “bad decisions over a period of time,” “promises that revenue sources would not support,” and “decisions made by the leadership of the past” as justifications for the legislation.

Meanwhile, the bill requires voters to “have to choose to tax themselves,” a precondition that will require a sustained charm offensive from Curry and the 19-member City Council.

All of that is in the future, though. For the present, Jacksonville’s “discretionary sales surtax” bill has cleared two of three Senate committees, along with one of its two House stops.

Notable amendment is a hard sunset date of Dec. 31, 2060, regardless of whether the unfunded liability (now at $2.6 billion) is retired or not.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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