Taking on two of Tallahassee’s most influential interest groups, the Florida Senate is advancing plans this spring to eliminate a pair of decades-old tax breaks for banks and insurance companies.
One measure would repeal a tax deduction for international banking, which critics say has become a gaping loophole that does nothing to encourage investment in Florida and primarily benefits big, multistate banks such as Citigroup and Bank of America.
The other would wipe out a tax credit for insurance companies and use the resulting revenue to reduce the car-registration fees paid by Florida drivers. Lobbyists say the break currently saves $32.5 million a year for health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield and more than $25 million annually for property insurer State Farm.
The repeals began with Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who has pledged to scrutinize the many breaks and incentives that dot Florida’s tax code. Gaetz, who earned a 97 percent rating from the Florida Chamber of Commerce last year, is especially critical of the insurance tax break, calling it “an antiquated government subsidy for the insurance industry.”
But both proposals face much longer odds in the state House of Representatives, which has yet to act on either idea with just two weeks remaining in this year’s legislative session. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, appeared lukewarm when asked by reporters about the measures.