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Like a lot of people today, Florida legislators will be thinking about taxes

TALLAHASSEE — Income tax day will not go unnoticed Wednesday as tax committees in the House and Senate take up bills to either impose new taxes, eliminate tax loopholes or offer new tax breaks to special industries and property tax payers.

The House's Finance and Tax Council, for example, will permanently eliminate $30 million in sales tax exemptions in exchange for a one-time sales tax holiday this summer for shoppers to buy hurricane supplies and school books.

After deciding to abandon talk of eliminating sales tax exemptions, the House committee did an about-face and introduced a bill to repeal a handful of exemptions because of "equity issues'' involving tax breaks that "do not pass muster," said Council Chairwoman Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale.

"I'm not doing it for the purpose of raising revenue," she said. "I'm doing it to bring back the sales tax holiday."

The House bill targets fitness clubs owned by hospitals, whose members now don't have to pay sales tax, by requiring them to impose the sales tax like nonhospital-run facilities. Sky box rentals for college and football games would also be subject to the sales tax under the bill. Coin-operated arcade games which now pay a 4 cent sales tax would have to pay the full 6-cent tax, and ostrich feed would no longer be exempt from the sales tax.

In addition, the bill would impose the sales tax on newspapers and magazines delivered by mail, except for shoppers and community newspapers.

The Senate Finance and Tax Committee will not take up tax exemptions this year, said chairman Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne. Instead, it has passed a cigarette tax and a bill to close corporate loopholes.

On Wednesday, his committee will vote out amendments to ask voters to give an additional homestead exemption for first-time home buyers and provide a 5 percent cap on the increase in property tax assessment for commercial and non-residential real estate.

The committee will also take up a bill to impose tourist development taxes on timeshare properties.

Finally, joint budget committee will infuse the first round of federal stimulus money into the state budget, approving $4 billion in cash, most of it to be used in the current year's budget.

And the full House will meet in session to take up an amendment to loosen the rules of the state's class size requirement. Until this year, the proposal has been often considered by lawmakers but never attempted because of the concerns that it would anger voters to ask them to do a do-over of the proposal that requires school districts to increase their student to teacher ratios. Budget woes have overcome those concerns.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.

Like a lot of people today, Florida legislators will be thinking about taxes 04/15/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 8:03pm]
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