Back in 1992, the state of Florida was looking to attract ostrich farmers. So the legislature passed a tax exemption on ostrich feed. Turns out, though, the birds are a bit more hostile and awkward than chickens, and ostrich farming proved to be not as popular as expected.
But the tax is still on the books, and Florida Senator Bill Posey has spent the past six years trying to repeal it. Not because he doesn't appreciate a headdress made of ostrich feathers, but because he says it's a measure that would open the door to further investigation of ridiculous tax exemptions.
"It's just emblematic of a problem we want to solve, to get useless, outdated and obscure exemptions off the book" said Posey, a Rockledge Republican.
Especially now that the state is trying to find $9 billion to alleviate some property taxes, the legislature is looking eliminating some tax exemptions.
The Florida Tax Handbook lists 246 exemptions to the sales tax, including skyboxes, tickets to the ballet, the sales of satellites and space vehicles, bottled water and crab bait purchased by commercial fishermen.
Remove all 246 exemptions and the state could bring in $12.3 billion in revenue -- considerably more than the $9 billion or so that could be lost with the commission's proposal to dramatically cut taxes by eliminating the property tax for public schools.
The tax-cut amendment will be put to voters on the Nov. 4 ballot, but it will be up to the Florida Legislature to determine how to make up the lost revenue for schools -- whether through elimination of exemptions, raising the sales tax, cutting the budget, introducing a tax on services or some other means.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.