Category Archives: Business Voice


Florida legislature reaches tax deal as budget crisis nears end

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) – Florida legislators voted to send Republican Governor Rick Scott a package of more than $400 million in tax cuts on Monday, trimming fees on a wide range of services, from cellular phone and cable TV bills to yacht repairs.

The tax-cut package negotiated by House and Senate budget managers was a major piece of a 20-day special legislative session that members expect to conclude on Friday with passage of a state budget of around $76 billion.

The tax deal and a separate hospital funding solution appear to have ended a bitter and long-running dispute between the Republican leaders in both houses that forced the special session.

Division among Republican leaders over expanding Medicaid and funding for hospitals treating indigents caused the regular legislative session to dissolve April 28, but negotiators scored a breakthrough last Friday on a formula to divide $2 billion in hospital money – using $400 million from the surplus and forcing reduction of other programs.

The House had earlier killed a Senate-passed bill that would have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Scott had sought about $700 million in tax cuts at the start of the session and the House approved a $690 million package. Having to put up the hospital money killed numerous hometown projects sought by members in the special session, along with the scaling back of tax cuts.

The Senate voted 34-2 for the package and a few hours later the House passed it 91-2. Scott said he will seek more tax cuts in 2016 when the legislative session reconvenes.

“Cutting Florida’s cell phone and TV tax is particularly important because it will save money for Florida families who pay a cell phone, satellite or cable TV bill,” Scott said in a statement.

Reducing the communications services tax accounted for $226 million of the total package and works out to about $20 a year for a consumer paying $100 a month in cable and cellular bills.

The package also includes a 10-day “sales tax holiday” for back-to-school shopping and a full-year exemption for college textbooks, adding up to about $110 million.

One point of controversy was a $60,000 cap on sales taxes for boat repairs, which means renovation and overhauls costing over $1 million would pay the same tax as less extensive work. But supporters of that $5.5 million tax break said it would help generate jobs in South Florida’s marinas and boatyards.

(Reporting by Bill Cotterell; Editing by David Adams and Eric Beech)–business.html?soc_src=copy


North Florida Avenue Rail Crossing Closure

Monday, March 22, CSX and the Florida Department of Transportation will close the rail crossing at North Florida Avenue in Downtown Lakeland for improvements. This project, which includes reconstruction of the entrance to the Citrus Connection bus terminal, will last about 30 days. Construction will occur 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Night work is possible.

Traffic will be directed to use Sikes Boulevard at Lime Street and George Jenkins Boulevard. Local traffic only will be permitted between Florida Avenue and Main Street.

Downtown Lakeland businesses will remain open during construction.

To access a detailed detour map, please click here.

For questions, contact Brian Bollas, Public Information Liaison at (727) 946-1869.


Chamber Announces Legislative Priorities for 2011

One of the most valuable resources that the Chamber offers to members is advocacy in the legislative arena. The Chamber’s collective voice is powerful because of the sum of member voices, each calling out for legislation that sustains and encourages business growth and development, and empowers the public education system with resources for developing a talented workforce.

2011 Florida Legislative Priorities

The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce will closely monitor and lobby accordingly on the following issues throughout the 2011 Legislative Session.

Economic Opportunity: Work with local elected officials and the State Legislature to fully fund Phase I of the new University of South Florida Polytechnic campus.

Energy Solutions: Support comprehensive energy policy that balances affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible energy sources while promoting economic and national security.

Florida High Speed Rail System: Support the construction and funding of a High Speed Rail system in Florida, with a rail station stop in Lakeland.

Growth Management: Support a more efficient and effective growth management strategy for the state,  to eliminate unnecessary and duplicative regulations, streamline our permitting process, limit excessive costs on employers, and give more control to local government.

Income Tax Increase: Support stability and predictability in the taxes employers pay and will oppose corporate income tax increases, unitary tax legislation or other tax proposals that will discourage investment in capital or jobs.

Medicaid Reform: Support Medicaid reforms that remove disincentives for physician participation, reward high-quality/low-cost providers, reduce Medicaid cost-shifting to the private sector, promote wellness and encourage individual responsibility for health behavior, and ensure appropriate coverage for eligible Medicaid recipients.

Pension Reform: Support public pension reform that is private sector comparable, competitive, balances employee and employer risk, incorporates member contributions and is taxpayer affordable.

Property Insurance: Support providing more affordable and available hurricane insurance to Florida’s business owners and reducing current and potential assessments on Floridians from insolvent state-run insurers.

Property Tax Relief: Support legislation to stop the property tax burden on business property.

Streamlined Government:  Support efforts to eliminate duplicative functions, bureaucracy and red tape burdens on employers.

Tort Reform:  Support the passage of comprehensive tort reform to lessen the burdensome costs imposed by our current legal system on Florida’s employers and consumers.

Transportation: Oppose the redirection of money from the State Transportation Trust Fund for non-transportation related purposes; supports an equitable return on local transportation projects, and; encourages the FDOT to pursue efforts to redirect freight traffic from Lakeland’s downtown corridor.

Unemployment Compensation: Support legislation to lower the cost of the unemployment compensation tax increase on employers and protect businesses that are creating jobs in Florida.

2011 Legislative Priorities – Education

The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce supports strengthening our education and workforce systems to close the talent gap and provide Florida with long-term economic success through a highly skilled and educated workforce.

The Chamber will lobby to support our Educational Institutions in Lakeland and Polk County in the following areas:

Polk County Public Schools:

  • Encourage the Florida Department of Education to adopt the highest academic standards in the country.
  • Real flexibility for school districts in expending state funds.
  • Flexibility of implementation of class size reduction caps.
  • Removal of stringent financial penalties for class size reduction.
  • Repeal of unfunded or underfunded state mandates.

Polk State College:

  • $3 million increase in base budget to expand access and programs for Lakeland/Polk County students.

Florida Southern College:

  • Continued funding of the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG) program.
  • Funding for the Frank Lloyd Wright Tourism and Education Center.
  • Funding for the Historic Preservation Fund to support Anne Pfeiffer Chapel grant.

University of South Florida Polytechnic:

  • Full funding of Phase 1 of the new campus construction project.


Next Tuesday, November 3, Lakeland residents will elect four members to serve on the City Commission and a new Mayor.  This election will play a critically important role in shaping Lakeland’s future.  

Business Voice is pleased to confirm the following Lakeland Mayoral and City Commission candidates who have been endorsed by our organization: 

Gow Fields, Mayor

Edie Yates, SE District

Phillip Walker, NW District

Howard Wiggs, At Large

BusinessVoice met with Michael Dunn and Don Selvage, candidates running for the Lakeland City Commission, SW District seat.  Mr. Selvage withdrew himself from endorsement consideration due to his prior involvement as a BusinessVoice member; no endorsement was made in this race.

BusinessVoice is a political action committee (CCE & PC) created in 2000 as an organization to support pro-business candidates and to promote issues which impact the business community. BusinessVoice, the political arm of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, works to ensure the election of business-minded candidates who are committed to creating a healthy business climate that leads to job creation and higher paying jobs. 

 As part of its interview process, BusinessVoice asked candidates to respond to a ten-page questionnaire designed to demonstrate the candidate’s knowledge of issues facing our City.   All candidate questionnaires have been posted on our Web site,   Chamber members are encouraged to visit the Web site to learn more about each of the candidates. 

If you are a resident of the City of Lakeland, we encourage you to exercise your opportunity to vote on Tuesday, November 3.

Tim Rice

Chairman, BusinessVoice of Greater Lakeland

Pd.pol.adv. Paid for and approved by BusinessVoice, Inc.


Politics In The Park 2008

Are you ready for “An Old-Fashioned Political Rally” then Please join us at the Lake Mirror Promenade in Lakeland on Thursday, October 16th from 5:30 to 8PM.

For the first time in the event’s history, Politics in the Park is offering:


What’s going on PIP ’08 you ask?Politics In The Park

You will be able to:

  • hear from the candidates appearing on the November 4th ballot
  • participate in a straw poll (administered by PC Supervisor of Elections)
  • enjoy live entertainment
  • a wide variety of food and beverages from local restaurants

Here is a clip from the Ledger editorial :

Both presidential candidates have been invited as well. “Who knows?” said Roberts of the possibility that one – or both – might show up. He was hopeful, pointing out that Polk County is in the middle of the all-important Interstate 4 corridor, that Lakeland is in the middle of middle America and that the city’s skyline provides an attractive backdrop for a television sound bite.

It is rumored that a major candidate is coming, but I have no conformation yet. I will let you know if anything is confirmed. If the the Obama or McCain campaigns are listening, we are ready and waiting.

Read the full editorial for more information.