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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

House Committees Slap Happy With Taxes….er…um…Fees

Florida House committees were certainly slap happy with taxpayers’ money Thursday morning.  The House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee passed a bill that significantly increases driving-related fees, doubling the fees in many cases.  But these additional fees won’t go into the State’s Transportation Trust Fund where they were previously directed.  No, these increases are going straight to the State’s General Revenue Fund. 

Of course, the committee didn’t pass the bill without some high drama according to Miami Herald’s Naked Politics.  It seems the committee didn’t have the votes to pass the chair’s proposed committee bill, so the committee recessed for about an hour, found three Republicans, and quickly reconvened and passed the bill 8-5 along party lines.  Duval delegation members Jennifer Carroll and Lake Ray voted for the tax, er, I mean fee increases.  Local representative Audrey Gibson voted against them.  

I’m not sure which I am more incensed about – the $686 million in fee increases to motorists after House legislators couldn’t bring themselves to get rid of sales tax exemptions on such things as charter boats and skyboxes, or the fact that our representatives robbed the funds received from the increased fees to put in the State’s General Revenue Fund to try to plug the budget hole. 

Here are some examples of proposed fee increases according to the Orlando Sentinel:

  2008 fee 2009 fee
Rental car surcharge $2 $4
License plate $12 $25
Specialty plate $2 $5
Driver’s license 1 $10 $11
Driver’s license 2 $27 $25
Driver’s license 3 $67 $75
Expedited title $7 $10
Title, duplicate title $24 $40
Crash reports $2 $10
Fishing license* $0 up to $15.50
File a civil suit $295 $295-$2,000
Probate fees $280 $280-$1,000-$2,000
DOT logo fees $1,250 cap $2,500 cap

*-This is a license for fishing in salt water from on shore or from fixed on-shore structure

Btw, the rental car surcharge in the chart above was quietly done away with Thursday morning at that same eventful House committee meeting through an amendment offered by local representative Jennifer Carroll claiming that at 29%, Jacksonville paid the highest rental car surcharge in the State.

Meanwhile another effort to rob taxpayers and their local governments of money (approximately $25 million worth of it)  in order to plug the State’s budget hole was going on in the House Natural Resources Committee.  This budget gap filler demonstrates another reason why any Trail Ridge Landfill contract approved by City Council should have reopener clauses. 

Using that local landfill is going to cost you more, if the House gets its way. But the state general revenue budget could get fatter by as much as $25 million a year, thanks to a trash dumping fee approved this morning by the House Natural Resource Committee.

Beginning in January, owners of solid waste facilities (in many cases, the owners are municipalities) would be charged a tipping fee of $1.25 per ton of solid waste dumped at the site. Staff estimate it will bring in $25 million a year from 7.5 million households.

A few committee members expressed reservations but voted yes anyway, on the hopes of tweaking the requirement before it goes for a final floor vote. Reps. Boyd, Bembry and Fetterman voted no.

“This is actually a tax,” said Rep. Leonard Bembry, D-Madison. “It poses a real financial burden.”

Lobbyists for municipalities and solid waste operators warned that the fee will, indeed, be passed along to residents who dump in the sites.

“Because most of the owners of these landfills are local governments, you’re taxing local governments that are required to have these facilities,” said Diana Ferguson, representing the Florida Association of Counties.  [St. Pete Times]

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Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Jacksonville, , ,

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