Proposed vehicle sales tax reduction axed because of pandemic economy
Certified pre-owned vehicles sit on display at an auto dealership in Miami. Image via AP.

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Sections on delivery sidewalk drones and safer highway construction equipment remain in the bill.

Lawmakers have scratched an effort to reduce vehicle sales taxes by $50 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Alex Andrade removed that portion of a larger transportation bill (HB 57) during a House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee meeting Wednesday. The Pensacola Republican described that amendment as a fix to the bill’s “one oversight” he accidentally left in before filing the legislation.

“Tax cuts of $50 per vehicle sale in a year like this are probably not recommended,” Andrade told committee members.

State economists expect Florida to raise $2 billion less in general revenue over the course of the current fiscal year than the last pre-pandemic estimate. Although the bill wouldn’t take effect until July, that marks the beginning of the next fiscal year, which is facing a $1.4 billion shortfall compared to the pre-pandemic estimate.

State economists have not yet determined the financial impact of a $50 motor vehicle sales tax reduction. But a Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee staff analysis suggested the tax cut would significantly reduce general revenue and various trust funds.

He might try again next year, Andrade told Florida Politics, if it’s a more appropriate time to cut fees for Floridians. For now, the Legislature’s focus is on spending cuts.

Surviving the Representative’s edit is a provision upping the maximum weight for personal delivery devices — slow-moving vehicles that are confined to sidewalks. By increasing the current pre-load limit from 80 pounds to 550 pounds, he hopes to attract FedEx and Amazon, which say they want to make Florida a hub for the delivery devices.

“The problem is their prototypes for these little, kind of wheeled drones range between 150 and 550 pounds,” Andrade said.

Another provision would allow paving machines and compaction rollers within highway work zone areas and speed radar displays in advance of those work zones to use flashing blue lights.

Construction equipment can currently use flashing amber and red lights, but flashing blue lights are more distinctive at night. In Florida, only law enforcement currently use flashing blue lights, and law enforcement have resisted past efforts to expand the use of blue lights.

“I don’t think that anyone at any distance would mistake a piece of asphalt equipment that’s generally about 10 tons, I feel like, as a law enforcement vehicle,” Andrade said.

There’s been no record of confusion in Texas, which implemented a similar policy a few years ago, he added.

Nineteen road construction workers died on highways in 2020.

“Allowing blue lights to be placed on top of large asphalts and roller equipment that looks nothing like a vehicle would help these projects stand out at night, and hopefully distracted drivers will pay more attention and we won’t see as many road construction worker deaths in the future,” Andrade said.

Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said the Representative’s effort to improve transportation is exactly what the state needs to do.

“Whatever strategies we can put in place that makes these construction zones safer, we are very much in support of,” he said.

With the subcommittee’s unanimous approval, the panel advanced the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee, its second of four committee stops. A similar bill (SB 1194) in the Senate, carried by Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, has not been slated for any committee hearings yet.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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