State House moves bed tax bill forward

04/23/10 Kate Bradshaw
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The State House is poised to pass a bill that some say could affect local governments to the tune of over $20 million. It has to do with the tourist development – or bed – tax. Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, a Republican from Palm Beach, explained it.

Rep. Jimmy Patronis, the bill’s sponsor, said taxing third-party booking services such as Orbitz or Expedia at the retail rate and not the wholesale rate would mean taxing a service, something Florida does not do.

The bed tax is a sales tax that applies to transient rentals. Florida’s counties collect and administer this revenue. It helps fund anything that attracts tourists, and provided nearly half of the funding for Tropicana Field. Democratic Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda asked Patronis why he was pushing the bill.

Patronis said it was all about bringing in tourist dollars.

Cragin Mosteller is a spokesperson for the Florida Association of Counties, a group that opposes the bill. She said that claim is a bit of a stretch.

Rehwinkel-Vasilinda then asked how less tax revenue from each room that gets booked could result in less money for beach renourishment projects like the one slated for St. Pete Beach this summer. Patronis, who has not opposed drilling for oil off Florida’s coast, said he would never sponsor a bill that would hurt Florida’s coastline.

The tourism development tax brings in millions of dollars for Florida’s counties. A spokesperson for Pinellas said that the county opposes the bill. The legislature has one week to pass it.

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