The annual legislative session is wrapping up in Tallahassee and the search for money is at a fever pitch, perhaps more so than at any time in memory.
The recession has our elected representatives looking for revenue — i.e., taxes — in every nook and cranny. They are getting quite creative as well, generating waves in the process.
Just ask the local Marine Industries Association folks, who during their monthly membership meeting at the Naples Harbour Yacht Club last week got a briefing on a proposed bill that would increase fees on marina owners and condo owners with boat slips. Those increased fees would help finance the next state budget, but they also will increase the cost of boating in the state.
The Marine Industries Association of Florida has sounded the alarm with a mass e-mail that carries this headline:
“Hold on to your wallets waterfront condo and homeowners and marine businesses.”
It explains that Senate Bill 1012 has been sent to the state House of Representatives as part of the budget process now that the legislative session is cruising to an end. (For a link to the bill, see this column online at naplesnews.com/opinion.)
According to the Marine Industries Association of Florida, the revenue-generating bill would:
* Greatly increase fees to “mom and pop” marinas around the state.
* Raise lease fees by thousands of dollars a year for condo owners with boat slips.
* Initiate application fees for docks at single-family homes.
* Raise fees, set up more processes and enact more rules that will be placed on the backs of the boating public.
Both the local and the state Marine Industries associations are urging members to call or e-mail their state representatives and tell them that Senate Bill 1012 should be deep-sixed.
State senators and representatives are hearing lots of complaints as they seek money from new sources in the form of taxes and fees.
That’s why they no doubt welcomed an e-mail last week from Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that acts as a think tank on ways to reduce taxes as well as government spending.
What TaxWatch proposed Thursday sounds too good to be true, or at least too good to be enacted.
It’s a plan that would jump start the state’s lagging economy with a focus on the real-estate sector.
It calls for implementation of a federal retirement visa policy, designed to attract foreign citizens who can afford to retire in Florida, by granting special immigration status. TaxWatch says current immigration laws limit a foreign buyer’s ability to live year-round in the United States, which dampens interest in purchasing residential property.
TaxWatch proposes a visa that would be issued to foreign citizens who meet certain minimum-age and asset thresholds.
The payback, according to a study commissioned by TaxWatch, would be huge — a quarter of a million new jobs, an additional $25 billion in Florida’s gross state product and $44 billion in sales, generating lots and lots of tax money to help soothe Tallahassee’s money-craving fever. (For a link to the study, see this column online at naplesnews.com/opinion.)
“The creation of a retirement visa would provide new and lucrative opportunities for Florida to attract long-term visitors from around the world to invest and consume in Florida,” said Dominic Calabro, TaxWatch’s CEO and president. “This policy would have a significant and likely immediate, positive effect on the housing market, which is vital to Florida’s economic health and recovery.”
Tallahassee couldn’t enact such a visa policy on its own. It would have to be done on the federal level, but Tallahassee could play the lead role along with other states that are attractive to foreign retirees — California, Arizona, etc.
It sure beats digging into nooks and crannies for taxes and fees that will retard growth, not encourage it.