Florida Lawmaker Wants to Cut Taxes for Private-Plane Buyers, Yay

Florida state Sen. Dennis Baxley has finally figured out a way to right the state economy.
Florida state Sen. Dennis Baxley has finally figured out a way to right the state economy. Photo via Florida House of Representatives
Florida's economy is organized backward. Study after study shows life has become more precarious for working-class people in the Sunshine State. In 2018, the Tampa Bay Times reported that life for working families has grown increasingly difficult in the past two decades — teachers' wages remain startlingly low, student debt is among the worst in the nation, millions of residents live without health insurance, and the number of families and seniors living in poverty worsened between 1998 and 2016.

So state Sen. Dennis Baxley — who, despite what your eyes might tell you, is not one of the anthropomorphic McDonald's Chicken McNugget mascots — has finally figured out a way to right the state economy: He wants to cut taxes for people buying private airplanes.

Yes, in this economy, Baxley has filed a bill for the 2020 legislative session that would exempt all airplane purchases from the state's 6 percent sales tax. For what it's worth, commercial jets already were exempt from state excise taxes, but Baxley yesterday filed a bill that would expand that exemption to any aircraft sold in Florida. (Because this is Florida, the list of other items exempt from state sales tax is insane and reads like a list of party favors for Tallahassee lobbyists. Other tax-exempt items include defense-industry manufacturing equipment, bait used to catch blue crabs and stone crabs, flags, commercial weed killers and farm pesticides, and, in some cases, racing dogs.)

Year in and year out, Baxley pitches many of the state's dumbest and/or most offensive legislative proposals — from filing Florida's Stand Your Ground law to trying to ban abortions because he believes they're killing white Western European society. He has sourced ideas from Islamophobic extremist groups, and he defended aspects of the Confederacy mere days after the white-supremacist rally Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. He also infamously fought building a monument to victims of slavery in Florida.

If you're buying a used Cessna plane for $60,000, the sales tax would cost you an additional $3,600. But for those in the market for, say, a Gulfstream G650 jet — and, frankly, a not insignificant number of Miamians probably are — 6 percent of the plane's $65 million sticker price adds an extra $3.9 million.

Sure, one could argue that $4 million is (1) pennies to a billionaire, (2) a worthwhile donation to build schools and roads and all the other fun stuff the plebes enjoy, and (3) a real bargain when some politicians say billionaires shouldn't exist. But, for once, we're going to side with Baxley on this one. There are simply too many barriers to buying a private airplane in Florida.

Too many owners of valet parking lots cannot afford to jet to Dave Matthews Band concerts on the weekends. Scores of corporate lawyers stare longingly out of C-suite windows while daydreaming of accidentally flying too close to Mar-a-Lago and being shot down by a Hellfire missile. Balding men who own four Chipotle franchises should be able to cheat on their wives in the comfort of a Beechcraft turboprop plane.

Keep fighting for their dreams, senator.
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Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli