The audience of special interest lobbyists rushed forward to get a copy of the single-page sheet of paper Florida TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro wanted to show the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. It was the list of sales tax exemptions and excluded services that the business-backed tax research organization thought might be ripe for a discussion on removing the sales tax exemption.
On the list, $224.8 million in annual exemptions for: charter fishing boats, bottled water, veterinary medicines, sales of religious items, movie theate concession rent, subsidies for the Professional Golf Hall of Fame and the International Game Fish Association, skyboxes rented by high school and college sports teams, and sales of U.S. and state flags.
TaxWatch also suggests it might be time to debate imposing a tax on these services: barber shops and beauty salons, dry cleaning and laundry, valet parking, photo finishing, pet care, fitiness facilities, pest control and lawn services and sightseeing bus trasnporation. Their annual potential revenue: $335.8 million.
TaxWatch culled the list of $560,6 million in exemptions based on "generally accepted standards of tax fairness,'' Calabro said."We're not saying go forth and tax these things. These items did not meet the criteria that were reviewed.'' But of the more than $12 billion in sales tax exemptions, $10 billion of which include food, medicine, housing and necessities, these "are more likely'' to be eligible for repeal, he said.
"Thanks for coming out and being bold enough'' to present a list, said Sen. Ken Pruitt, a St. Lucie Republican. He said the tax debate should not be about finding new money but about reforming the tax base to sustain itself for a stronger, better future. "Florida is not going to be a cheap state anymore and that's okay with me,'' Pruitt said. "We're not going ot have growth for growth's sake.''