Daniel Tilson: Tax-cutting season again in Tallahassee

Keep a close eye on your financial future, ’cause it’s tax-cutting season again in Florida.

Maybe this is the year that “Main Street” starts seeing through the tax-cutting game politicians and elected officials play. That would take a whole lot of people getting just a little savvier about the subject, then speaking up and out to each other about how rigged the game is.

It would be a big help if Democratic legislators and leaders consistently, repeatedly spoke truth to Republican power and the general public, exposing the cause-and-effect relationship between unfair tax policies and steady disempowerment of the Florida middle class.

But the perceived “third rail” status of discussing even ultra-targeted tax hikes on Florida’s wealthiest residents and largest corporations is such that most Democrats remain meek if not completely mum on the issue. So their GOP colleagues just keep pushing in the other direction, making our economy ever more dependent on middle-class sales/use taxes.

Think that’s why Gov. Rick Scott and his Republican colleagues have grown the economy on the backs of tourism and related travel and leisure industries? They create plenty of jobs for politicians to point to and take credit for. And they generate a ton of sales tax collections.

Problem for the middle class is, those are overwhelmingly rotten, minimum wage jobs with no benefits. That means millions more working poor people, many of whom still need public assistance to support their families. Guess who pays for that, along with their uninsured health care? No, not the state’s wealthiest individuals and largest corporations.

But without a steady, strong Democratic chorus connecting the dots for the general public, the economic con game remains in play, and Republicans keep winning. Despite all facts and figures pointing to Florida’s growing wage stagnation, income inequality and lack of upward mobility, many middle-class voters still fall for the con.

As the Legislature prepares for the March 3 opening of its 2015 session, most if not all lawmakers’ eyes are on Election 2016. Yes, they’re looking out for your vote already; which means you have to look out for this season’s trick plays.

They don’t want people contemplating connecting any of those “Big Picture” dots. So they’ll rely once again on well-oiled weapons of mass distraction and misdirection. Once again, they’ll crown themselves champions of tax-cutting, smaller government and economic growth.

This year, the star attraction is Gov. Scott’s proposed $470 million cut in cell phone taxes. That comes out to about $43 per person savings annually. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans want to cut commercial lease taxes for the business class, and will likely increase the corporate tax exemption – $5,000 when Scott took office in 2011 – from $50,000 to $75,000.

Chair of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, rationalizes an anti-middle class agenda this way: “The assumption is that if corporations pay less to government in taxes they will spend more on capital and salaries…”

Yeah…that’s worked out great so far, huh?

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Daniel Tilson


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