When the state of Florida ran into financial trouble four years ago, legislators decided to hit up residents who needed new vehicle tags, registrations and drivers licenses to help make up the shortfall.
As a car dealer, I heard Buyers complain daily about their new tag fees, which increased 35%, costing $250 and up. Now the state has some money to spare, State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart has proposed reducing those fees. Negron has recommended that the state make up the loss of income from those fees by eliminating a 30-year-old tax break to insurance companies doing business in Florida.
This very expensive and little known tax break enables those insurance companies to claim tax credits equal to 15% of the payroll of their Florida employees. That amounts almost $220,000,000 in corporate welfare to the insurance industry each year. Meanwhile, Florida residents, many of whom are struggling financially, are subsidizing an industry that now has its well-heeled lobbyists crying foul.
Those incentives are needed to entice insurance companies to do business in the state, they say. Actually Florida is the only one of two states in the country who offer the controversial tax break. Arkansas is the only other state that allows the extravagant tax subsidy.
If the tax subsidy is removed, the costs will be passed onto the insurance customers, claim the lobbyist. Not necessarily so. Underwriting payroll costs and the cost of premiums are two separate issues, which will be reviewed by the office of insurance regulation, Negron counters.
It is refreshing to see a senior legislator stand up to an industry that knows its way around the state Capitol in Tallahassee. Even more appealing is seeing the state legislator looking out for the little guy, who probably didn’t know he was subsidizing insurance companies.
If you’re thinking about buying a car truck anytime soon, keep a close eye on Negron’s bill. If it passes it could save you hundreds of dollars. And if you have a few extra minutes, give Negron’s fellow legislators a call and let them know how you feel. State Representative Larry Lee, of St. Lucie County, can be reached at 850-717-5084, and representatives Gail Harrell, from Martin County, can be reached at 805-717-5083. I’m sure they would love to hear from you.