TALLAHASSEE – Floridians will get a break in the cost of preparing for hurricane season again this year.
The state House of Representatives and Senate both unanimously approved legislation providing for a 2006 sales tax holiday on hurricane preparedness. The next step is for Gov. Jeb Bush to sign it into law.
The legislation is part of the governor’s $525 million budget recommendation of state and federal funding for emergency management. The plan called for $42 million in spending to provide for the sales tax holiday.
The governor said the tax holiday is "an important component of our comprehensive plan to instill a ‘culture of preparedness’ in Florida. The May holiday will save Florida’s families an estimated $41.6 million in sales tax this year.
"Our state’s all-hazard approach to emergency planning ensures Florida is prepared to respond to all potential threats, from natural disasters to man-made events. Prepared citizens are better equipped to provide for the safety of their families, reduce damage to their homes and recover more quickly from a disaster."
Gary Vickers, director of Pinellas County Emergency Management, said the hurricane preparedness tax holiday gives people an incentive to be better prepared.
"It helped last year," he said. "Everything helps."
The tax holiday should help the county as it works to spread the message that personal responsibility is crucial to surviving a hurricane.
“Government cannot and should not do everything for everyone,” Vickers said.
The tax holiday could help residents prepare better than they could afford to do otherwise, he said.
The tax holiday will coincide with National Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 21 through June 1. Hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
Items that will be exempt from sales tax during the holiday include: portable self-powered lights and radios; tarps and waterproof sheeting; ground anchor systems or tie-down kits; gas or diesel fuel tanks; batteries, except car or boat batteries and nonelectric food storage coolers.
Limits are set on dollar value of items that are exempt from the tax. For example, portable lights must cost less than $20 and radios less than $50.
New to the list of tax exempt items for 2006 include storm shutter devices selling for $200 or less; cell phone batteries selling for $60 or less and carbon monoxide detectors selling for $75 or less.
Another change is generators valued at $1,000 or less will be exempt, up from the $750 allowed in 2005.
Last year, state residents saved more than $10 million on essential preparedness items, according to Gov. Bush. This year, with new items on the list and an increase in the allowance for generator costs, the potential for greater savings exists.
Vickers said people should be prepared to spend several days on their own, without outside help, if a hurricane were to hit Pinellas County.
He said each household should make a plan and make purchases for individual needs before a hurricane is forecast.
"People have to assume more responsibility for their own safety and comfort," he said.
List of hurricane preparedness items
The list of tax exempt items, as listed on Senate Bill 24 and House Bill 47, is as follows:
- Any portable self-powered light selling for $20 or less
- Any portable self-powered radio, two-way radio or weatherband radio selling for $50 or less
- Any tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting selling for $50 or less
- Any ground anchor system or tie-down kit selling for $50 or less
- Any gas or diesel fuel tank selling for $25 or less
- Any package of AAA-cell, AA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt or 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile or boat batteries, selling for $30 or less
- Any cell phone battery selling for $60 or less and any cell phone charger selling for $40 or less
- Any nonelectric food storage cooler selling for $30 or less
- Any portable generator used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage selling for $1,000 or less
- Any storm shutter device selling for $200 or less. Storm shutter device is defined as materials and products manufactured, rated and marketed specifically for the purpose of preventing window damage from storms
- Any carbon monoxide detector selling for $75 or less
- Any blue ice selling for $10 or less
- Any single product consisting of two or more of the items listed above selling for $75 or less. For example, a portable self-powered flashlight and package of batteries packaged and sold together.