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    Break for electric carts parked in tax package

    The driver: a legislator who happens to live where the ''low-speed vehicles'' are rampant.

    ©Associated Press
    April 19, 2003


    TALLAHASSEE -- A tax exemption slipped into House legislation would give a break to people who drive electric "low-speed vehicles" -- similar to golf carts -- that are popular in gated and planned communities like Central Florida's Celebration.

    That's where state Rep. Randy Johnson lives. He put the proposal into a 56-page package of legislation dealing with the Department of Revenue.

    "Low-speed vehicles" are defined under the law as having a top speed between 20 and 25 mph. Celebration, a Disney community, sets aside special parking spots for the electric carts.

    The tax break wouldn't be available for buyers of standard golf carts, which are defined as traveling no faster than 20 mph. Regular golf carts are also used in many retirement communities around the state in lieu of cars, but apparently would continue to be subject to the state sales tax under the measure.

    Johnson, a Republican, told the Palm Beach Post that he doesn't own a low-speed vehicle and doesn't plan to.

    "It's about middle-class families not having to buy a second car," said Johnson.

    He said the electric carts are quieter and "kinder on the environment" than regular cars.

    On average, a low-speed vehicle costs about $9,000, meaning the typical buyer would save $540 in state sales tax. In all, the state would lose about $600,000 a year.

    Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox called Johnson's proposal an "insult" in a year when House leaders are struggling to find the money to pay for all of the services covered in the past.

    "This is a slap in the face to working-class Floridians," Maddox said. "He is in perfect step with Republican leadership that looks out for the richest of the rich."

    The proposal and the larger legislative package that contains it were approved by the House Finance and Tax Committee, which Johnson chairs, but have not been heard by the full House.

    The Senate version of the bill has no mention of the proposal.

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