By JIM TURNER AND TOM URBAN
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
State officials are promoting the potential for long-term savings on utility bills as they tout sales-tax breaks this weekend for shoppers who buy energy-saving and water-conserving appliances.
The discount period, which begins Friday, is the third sales-tax "holiday" offered by Florida lawmakers as part of an election-year package of tax cuts.
From Friday through Sunday, sales taxes won't be collected on the first $1,500 of the purchase price of certain Environmental Protection Agency-designated Energy Star and WaterSense products, including new refrigerators, dishwashers, ceiling fans and even light bulbs.
"You don't have to spend a lot to save, but every little bit you save on your taxes this weekend will also save on your electric and water bill in the future," said Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokeswoman Erin Gillespie. "People that buy the appliances can save anywhere from $1 to $100, but more than that, you'll save on your electric bill every month that you have that appliance or product in your house."
The discount period isn't anticipated to drive as many shoppers to the stores as the more popular back-to-school tax "holiday," which was held in August, or even a tax-free period in June on certain hurricane supplies.
Many of the discount items this weekend are considered bigger-ticket items purchased more out of necessity than on a whim --- refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers, swimming pool pumps, water heaters, weather-based irrigation controllers and high-efficiency toilets.
But not everything on the exemption list is a costly purchase, as Energy Star and WaterSense-approved products include light bulbs, air purifiers, ceiling fans, shower heads and bathroom sink faucets.
State economists, sitting as the Revenue Estimating Conference, have projected that the overall savings for shoppers this weekend could dent the revenue of state and local governments between $890,000 and $2.67 million.
By comparison, the same economists projected the "holiday" period for back-to-school items reduced state revenue by $32.3 million and local revenue to the tune of $7.3 million.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who pitched the energy-savings tax discount nearly a year ago as part of his 2014 legislative agenda, put the consumer savings around $900,000. But he also sees the products as helping the state long-term.
"The sales-tax holiday will not only put money back in the pocket of hard-working Floridians, it will also help conserve water and energy for our future generations,” Putnam said in a prepared statement.
The Tallahassee-based Florida Retail Federation is looking at closer to the $2 million number, expecting the sales-tax discount to be popular for shoppers who have been looking to replace aging appliances.
"This is a great opportunity for Floridians to upgrade those appliances and make those purchases that they've been waiting to make," said Samantha Stratton, a federation spokeswoman. "Previously, the economic downturn sort of inhibited those purchases. And now that consumers are feeling more confident, they're ready to go out and make these purchases that will last them longer."