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Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro.

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This is 40: Florida TaxWatch gears up for Session

Another active year for watchdog group.

At the Hotel Duval on Monroe Street, some of the state’s heaviest hitters convened Wednesday evening to offer support to Florida’s preeminent watchdog group.

The occasion: the annual “State of the Taxpayer Dinner,” put on by Florida TaxWatch in its 40th year.

Don’t expect a midlife crisis for the group in its fifth decade.

Dominic M. Calabro, Florida TaxWatch President and CEO, described the current “state of the taxpayer” as “strong.”

“The Sunshine State and taxpayers of Florida are blessed to have record performance in most areas throughout the state,” he said, noting that’s “not something that happens over one year, but happens over time.”

Despite balanced books, there are issues that need to be solved.

“However, low cost does not a quality state make. It’s one of the considerations, but it’s not the most important one.”

Quality of life issues, such as water quality problems from “years of neglect,” must be solved.

“It’s about get it done,” Calabro said, noting that TaxWatch backs a four-year commitment to investing $650 million plus for Everglades restoration and water quality.

Calabro also discussed some of the TaxWatch priorities for the next 60 Days.

Among those: full funding for VISIT FLORIDA, which again faces a struggle for its life amid  skepticism from House leadership about the need for statewide tourism marketing.

Calabro believes that’s a priority.

Calabro also contends that the ongoing process of “sweeping” Sadowski Trust affordable housing money constitutes bad faith with the taxpayer.

“The economy is as hot as it’s ever been,” Calabro said, “and more and more people have to rent.”

The Sadowski fund must be “treated with the respect that’s due.”

Meanwhile, another TaxWatch priority for 2020: streamlining the communication services tax.

TaxWatch backs a bill (HB 701) that would save taxpayers at least $2.1 million. It would set just two rates of taxation: charter counties and non-charter counties, eliminating local taxes and reducing the overall tax rate.

Calabro described the “terribly antiquated” patchwork system as being leftover from the days of AT&T having a telephone monopoly, giving Florida one of the ten most expensive CSTs in the country.

As well, the group backs an e-commerce bill filed by Sen. Joe Gruters, a measure that would tax online retailers just as brick and mortar shops are assessed.

“That would create a level playing field,” Calabro said, predicting $700 million in added revenue.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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