Fla. lawmaker seeks to tax toilet paper

Friday, March 11, 2005

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's Legislature is flush with good ideas.

Sen. Al Lawson's involves a 2 cent-per-roll tax on toilet paper to pay for wastewater treatment and help small towns upgrade their sewer systems.

The Democratic lawmaker's pay-as-you-go bill has been the source of many jokes but he says the issue is a serious one, especially in some of the fast-growing Panhandle coastal counties in his district.

"They're experiencing a tremendous boom in growth and they're not able to accommodate the growth," Lawson said.

"We've got 17 million people in this state and all of them can contribute to protecting our underground water supply."

In a Republican-dominated Legislature that doesn't like new taxes, the idea is likely to pretty quickly end up in the tank.

Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said he didn't think it would get too far, but didn't rule it out.

"We'll be getting to the bottom of it real soon," Lee said.

The House is skeptical as well.

"We're not wild about tax increases," said House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City. "But we'll certainly let it go through the system."

If it were to pass, the extra two pennies would start being charged in October. Lawson said it could generate $50 million a year.

It would also need approval from Gov. Jeb Bush. He said that if toilet paper is taxed, people might use less of it.

"That's not necessarily a good thing," noted the governor.

And what about consumers? Wouldn't they be squeezed by a tax on the Charmin?

No, says Lawson.

"Two cents is not going to hurt families at all," he said. "This is one thing people don't mind paying for."

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