I learned the values of conservatism as a young boy watching my parents, Cuban exiles, work tirelessly to provide for my family — never taking a penny from the government. My mom, Rosa Maria Avila, spent 42 years working for a company that started out of a modest Miami home. That company eventually became the worldwide-known clothing brand Perry Ellis.
That small home-based business with just eight employees — including my mom and the owner — was able to grow into a household name in large part because of Florida’s healthy business climate. The legislatures of my mom’s time and many before it made the conscious choice to prioritize tax reductions and conservative policies to improve our economy, stimulate growth and create jobs.
As a state representative and sponsor of this year’s statewide tax package in the Florida House, I think about my mom a lot. I know how tax relief for that small business she worked for propelled many Floridians to great success, provided dozens of jobs, and how it helped my parents improve our lot in life.
The House’s historic proposal offers over $193 million in tax cuts — some directly to individuals and others to businesses, small and large. But for some of my progressive colleagues across the aisle and at least one Central Florida newspaper, any tax relief for business is immediately labeled “corporate welfare.”
If the state of Florida were a country, it would have the 16th largest economy in the world. The state’s unemployment rate remains well below the nation’s at 3.2%. The workforce has grown to 10.5 million residents. Hundreds of people move to Florida each day, many escaping high-tax climate states like New York. We have made strides every year to lessen the financial burden on our residents and businesses, large and small, to make sure we stay among the best economies.
Much of the focus of the negativity on this package has been toward the relief it provides to rental car companies. The truth is, the Florida House bill simply offers relief to Florida’s rental car companies to offset a challenge introduced by federal tax policy.
The federal tax bill suddenly shortened the timeline for rental car companies to pay taxes on revenue from car sales. Without a solution, these companies could be forced to make cuts — possibly jobs — or increase prices. But a mistake made at the federal level should not trickle down to our businesses in Florida and the hard-working people who staff them. Our tax cuts for car rental businesses simply offset the consequences of the federal tax reform.
Our tax package, HB 7097, does more, though. It includes a communications services tax reduction, which will help cut costs for anyone paying for a cellphone, cable or satellite service plan in the state. It also covers fuel tax rate cuts for commercial air carriers, which could lead to savings that can be passed on to consumers. Does that sound like “corporate welfare” to you?
Furthermore, our bill ensures popular sales tax holidays remain in place to exempt certain seasonal items around the hurricane and back-to-school seasons.
Finally, this tax package is historic because it wisely expands the allowable uses for tourist development tax proceeds to include public parks and trails and water quality improvement projects, making Florida the first state to tie water quality to tourism.
Over the next few days, the House and Senate will continue working on wrapping up our duties here in Tallahassee. This tax package passed the House on Friday and was sent to the Senate for its consideration.
It is my hope that this tax relief package for all Floridians — people and businesses — becomes law. I want to see hard-working Floridians like my mom and businesses like that small one that became Perry Ellis continue to enjoy a strong economy that helps propel them to achieve their greatest dreams, too.
Rep. Bryan Avila is a Republican from Miami Lakes and the chairman of the Florida House Ways & Means Committee.