Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senate committee votes to tax bottle water and use the money to clean up litter

TALLAHASSEE — In a Legislature averse to raising taxes this election year, one item might not be off limits: bottled water. The state would tax the product for the first time under legislation given initial approval Wednesday by a Senate committee.

The bill would impose a 6 percent tax on all bottled water and direct the revenue to programs that clean up discarded plastic bottles. It is expected to generate $42 million next year.

"It's a surcharge to save the environment," said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, who said water company stocks are "through the roof."

The legislation (SB 152) passed 7-1 in the Senate Commerce Committee and must be considered by two more committees before it hits the Senate floor. The only no vote was Republican Sen. Victor Crist of Tampa. An identical House version has not received a committee hearing.

Last year, a House committee rejected a similar bottled water tax. In his proposed budget a year ago, Gov. Charlie Crist asked for a 6-cents-a-gallon tax on all water pumped from the ground and used for commercial purposes. That effort also failed.

Critics in the beverage industry say the tax is punitive and that it could lead to job losses in the industry. Martha Harbin, a lobbyist with the Florida Beverage Association, noted that companies are working on biodegradable containers and are pouring money into recycling awareness campaigns.

"In terms of the environmental impact, it's far, far less than many sectors of the economy," she said.

Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, said the new tax would treat bottled water just like soda, which is also taxed at the 6 percent rate.

"It's about personal consumption, water as a refreshment," he said. "This thing has created a real hardship as far as the cleanup of the water industry."

But he suggested exempting large containers to spare people who use bottled water as their normal drinking supply.

Supporters of the tax say water companies make high profits by simply repackaging spring water or tap water and then leaving cleanup costs to the public.

"The cost of cleaning up that stuff and dealing with the bottles down the line is (passed on) to the taxpayer," said Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen.

Water suppliers point out that they pay a premium on water from municipal systems, in addition to building plants that filter the water and add flavoring.

"Don't think we get it for free," said Lane Stephens, who lobbies for Nestle Waters North America. "It costs a lot of money to put it in that bottle."

Democratic Sen. Charlie Justice of St. Petersburg disputed the idea that the new tax would lead to job losses: "I think a lot people, if they're in a 7-Eleven or wherever and buying a bottle of water, they probably don't know whether it's taxed or not."

Senate committee votes to tax bottle water and use the money to clean up litter 03/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  2. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]