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    Ostrich feed first target in smaller tax exemption war

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 12, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- A Senate committee Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to eliminate a tax exemption for ostrich feed.

    The vote by the Senate Agriculture Committee came a year after a move to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax exemptions brought the Legislature to a virtual standstill before it died.

    This year, the fight is smaller.

    Besides ostrich feed, Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, also wants to eliminate a tax exemption for sales of luxury suites at sports venues.

    "I think the sky box people are almost a little bit embarrassed that they get a tax break during the tough times the state if having right now," Posey said. As lawmakers grapple with Gov. Bush's proposal to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget, constituents are pressuring them to eliminate some exemptions they think are "stupid," as Posey put it.

    The Florida Farm Bureau Federation last counted two Florida ostrich farmers, remnants of a 1990s push to get people to buy the meat as a low-fat alternative.

    "It never took off," said Benjamin Parks of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, who endorsed Posey's bill. Eliminating the exemption would generate about $15,000 to $30,000 in tax dollars.

    What's next?

    SB 1670, seeking to repeal a sales tax exemption for ostrich feed, will be heard next by the Senate Finance and Tax Committee.

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