Business Makes Needs Known in Tallahassee

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY FEB 25, 2019

Florida business leaders in Tallahassee last week promoted an agenda including workforce education, lower business costs and proper infrastructure. Southwest Florida figures, both from the business and political world, promised to do all they could this legislative session to advance those priorities.

Jacki Dezelski, president and CEO of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, says she visited with regional lawmakers in Tallahassee a week and a half ago. “We hit on transportation planning and investment with our delegation and in our meeting with FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation)," she says. "Reduction and eventual elimination of the business rent tax continues to be a priority for the Manatee Chamber.” She mentioned to many officials that Florida remains the only state to charge taxes on commercial leases, and she wants that challenge on the radar of lawmakers this year.

That ties into business priorities laid out by Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, at a press conference last week. He provided an agenda of lengthy items, but said he chiefly wants lawmakers focusing on improvements in four areas: lowering cost of living; lowering cost of local business; improving education and workforce development; and improving infrastructure to keep pace with growth. “If the Legislature pursues these four areas in earnest, we think we’re going to have positive job creation,” he said.

Dezelski says the region supports efforts to curb red tide as well, and she stresses the need to keep the Sadowski Trust Fund available for affordable housing needs, not raiding it for other budget concerns as lawmakers each year prove prone to do.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, had a speaking spot at the Chamber’s press conference. As chairman of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, he has a number of bills in the queue to promote Florida business. “I am so fortunate Senate President [Bill] Galvano gave me the opportunity to serve in this capacity,” he says.

In the role, he tells SRQ, he plans to tackle a number of specific areas aimed at leveling the playing field for local business. That includes an “e-fairness” bill aimed at making sure online retailers pay their share in taxes, just like Florida-based brick-and-mortar stores. He also wants to ensure a disaster preparedness sales tax holiday happens this year, something particularly important to major employers like PGT Industries.

The legislative session formally begins March 5.

Photo courtesy Florida Chamber: Florida's Capitol.

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