- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Republicans in the Florida House on Tuesday rolled out a scaled-back tax cut package that would give Floridians a small cut on their cellphone bills as well as keep intact the annual back-to-school sales tax holiday.

House leaders during their regular session were touting an array of nearly $700 million in tax cuts. But in an effort to end an ongoing budget stalemate the revised package either eliminated or greatly reduced some of the tax cuts the House had promised earlier.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Niceville Republican in charge of the House tax-writing committee, said the tax cut package was still an effort to help “struggling people” as well as businesses across the state.

The tax cuts, if passed, would save Floridians about $10 a year in cellphone taxes as opposed to the $43 a year break that Gov. Rick Scott wanted legislators to pass. The cut to the cellphone tax, however, would be staggered over a two-year period.

Scott also wanted to eliminate sales taxes on college textbooks. Instead the House proposal calls for the tax to be waived during a one-day holiday held in late August, as well as in January and May 2016.

Gaetz said he would have liked to endorse Scott’s tax cut proposals fully, but said “I’ve got to fish with the lures that work.”

Scott, who was attending a GOP economic gathering in Orlando that drew several White House hopefuls, still praised the House tax cut package even though it was smaller than he wanted.

“What I’m happy (about) is that we’re continuing to reduce taxes,” Scott said. “Every year we’re chipping away at reducing our taxes and it’s paying off.”

The House scaled back its tax cut package so it would cost under $300 million in the first year, although it would grow to more than $400 million when all the tax breaks are fully in place. The package also includes a small reduction in the tax charged on commercial rent.

Legislators are holding a rare June special session because they were unable to pass a new state budget during the regular session that ended May 1. House and Senate leaders have been at odds over health care and health care spending.

Senators continue to say they want to vote for tax cuts this year, but maintain it depends on whether the two sides can set aside enough money for Florida’s hospitals. Sen. Tom Lee said that until senators are convinced they have “adequate resources” in the health care system, “everything else is a secondary priority.”

Correspondent Brendan Farrington contributed to this story from Orlando

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