For anyone unfamiliar with what takes place in Tallahassee during the legislative session, navigating the legislative process can be a mystifying experience. Not only are first-time visitors to Tallahassee’s capitol building generally concerned about getting lost in the maze of hallways and stairwells, but the myriad of meetings and crowds of people can easily result in information overload.
Taking the mystery out of the process is one purpose of the annual FABA-Day-On- The-Hill. Sitting down with legislators, explaining the challenges that our members experience in Florida, and working to find solutions is only the first part of a lengthy process to enact legislation that changes the status quo. Although FABA has enjoyed success with creating the 21-day use tax exemption and creating the repair & maintenance exemption, the one exemption that has not made it across the finish line is the complete exemption of aircraft sales.
Florida is a great place to own and fly your plane, but few sales are closed in Florida due to more favorable tax treatment elsewhere. FABA has again sought legislative sponsors for the aircraft sales exemption. We asked Senator Thad Altman, and Representative Charles Van Zant, both pilots, to file our legislation. Of course, it wasn’t as easy as that. Each state representative can only file six bills, and often a legislator will carryover bills from prior years if they did not pass. In other words, there are an unlimited number of ideas for bills in the process but only a few hundred bills every year get the opportunity to become law. In the Senate, there is no limit to how many bills can be filed, but there is no point in filing a bill that does not have a House sponsor. The FABA Board saw up-close-and-personal how the bill sponsor process works when we met with and asked Rep. Van Zant to sponsor our legislation and got Senator Altman on the phone at the same meeting to confirm that he would sponsor the Senate version of the bill. The bills are now filed as Senate Bill 712 and House Bill 693.
The next step in the process is to get the bills heard before their first committee. Again, most bills that are filed will never get heard before a committee. In the case of our exemption bills, the first committee that reviews the legislation is the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC). The REC is a non-elected committee of economists, legislative and agency staff that use Department of Revenue data to determine the impact of the legislation. Often considered the most powerful non-elected group in the legislative process, they can spell doom for legislation that costs too much. The REC priced our legislation last month at nearly $30 million – meaning simply that the loss of revenue to Florida caused by the sale tax exemption would be roughly $30 million. The good news was that the number was not higher, the bad news is that $30 million is a sizable figure. Our job now is to move the bills to the next committee and determine the political appetite for a $30 million tax cut, or whether it is more palatable to pursue an exemption that would cost less.
“Florida is a great place to own and fly your plane, but few sales are closed in Florida due to more favorable tax treatment elsewhere ”
However, the key ingredient in pushing the issue forward for a complete exemption is bringing business partners to the political table: manufacturers, aircraft sales operations, and general aviation industry players that will benefit from the elimination of the sales tax on aircraft sales in Florida. Without these partners, FABA’s efforts will not succeed because legislators will not be convinced that anybody cares about creating a sales tax exemption. Let’s not lose the momentum that has been created. Contact Jenny Showalter at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask how you can help make tax-free aircraft in Florida a reality!