There was an article today in The Florida Times-Union about legislators attempting to close some sales tax loopholes in an effort to balance the state budget … which may show a deficit approaching $6 billion dollars in the coming fiscal year.
These tax breaks are on things like Superbowl and other luxury skybox tickets. Bottled water, and probably ostrich feed are among the 240 or so sales tax exemptions being considered.
Ostrich feed is one of those things that always comes up in any sale tax exemption discussion as arguably one of the most egregious and specialized tax exemptions on the books. Apparently at some point ostrich farming was going to be some kind of big economic boon to the state, and ostrich farmers lobbied … successfully … to have the feed exempted from sales tax.
People always ask, too, why sky box tickets and Super Bowl tickets and other such things are exempt from sales tax. The argument against the exemption always goes that people who can afford Super Bowl tickets can afford to pay sales tax on them. Same for luxury sky boxes. Of course, the other side says that having the tickets exempt from the tax makes Florida more competitive in attracting the Super Bowl … the weather in February and fairly new stadiums not withstanding.
Granted, closing those tax loopholes won’t close a 6 billion dollar budget gap. But think about the perception.
It seems that even if it’s not big amounts of money, the legislature might want to consider how it looks to continue them. I drink a lot of bottled water, but I CAN drink it cold and filtered from the refrigerator it I want. We’re already paying for decent water to come from the taps, though I have to admit, bottled water almost ALWAYS tastes better.
So maybe it is time to take a look at the exemptions as they exist. I’m all for paying as little in taxes as anyone, but I’m also not too keen on living in a bankrupt state … or city for that matter, but that’s another post.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. At the end of the day, it’s finally going to come down to a choice between generating additional revenue or doing without essential services or popular programs. That’s the choice that will have to be made. Either one will require political will, which sometimes seems to be in short supply.
So even if closing these sales tax loopholes doesn’t generate the billions of dollars of revenue needed to erase the deficit, it’s probably good policy to at least LOOK at them. It will show those of us who PAY the taxes that the legislature is serious about making choices.
And from my perspective … difficult choices need to be made.