March 30, 2000 -- Because the federal
income tax is the biggest and usually the first tax we see
listed on our pay stubs, we naturally tend to focus on it.
But state government takes a bite out
of our spending money, too. Bankrate will help you stay on
top of what your localities are collecting -- income, sales,
personal property or investment taxes, or often a combination
Here's a look at some recent tax actions
across the nation.
lawmaker calls for state gas tax relief
HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania State Sen. Jeffrey Piccola wants
to temporarily suspend the state's liquid fuels tax to ease
gasoline pump prices.
Piccola is readying the "Liquid Fuels
Tax Suspension Act," which would halt the state's 11.5-cent-per-gallon
tax on gasoline and diesel fuel beginning July 1 for four
to six months. The senator estimates the bill could cost the
state approximately $300 million to $350 million. To make
up that loss, Piccola suggests postponing a one-time property
tax rebate to the state's 3.3 million homeowners. The
rebate program, already approved by the Pennsylvania House,
is expected to cost $330 million.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge says he would
not support the fuel tax suspension plan.
in federal gas tax could hurt New Mexico
SANTA FE -- The New Mexico Highway and Transportation
Department is urging the state's Congressional delegation
to oppose efforts to cut the federal gasoline tax, saying
it would imperil critical state transportation projects.
The Land of Enchantment could be out as
much as $60 million if the 4.3-cents-a-gallon federal gasoline
tax is reduced, New Mexico highway officials say, and the
loss could affect projects in 15 counties throughout the state.
Richard Montoya, director of the state's
Transportation Planning Division, says if federal money is
decreased, the state will try to go through the normal planning
process -- including public hearings -- to determine what
projects to delay or trim. But he says if federal cuts are
passed on immediately, state highway officials may be forced
to make the choices on their own.
The highway department report lists projects
in Bernalillo, Chaves, Cibola, Curry, Doņa Ana, Eddy, Guadalupe,
Lea, McKinley, Mora, Quay, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Santa Fe
and Sierra counties as those that could suffer if federal
gas tax money is lost.
treatments in Texas become less painful
AUSTIN -- Beginning April 1, treating headaches -- and
other ailments -- won't be such a pain in the pocketbook.
That's because state sales tax no longer will be collected
on most over-the-counter drugs.
The Texas Comptroller's Office says all
medicines that have a National Drug Code number and are "a
drug or a medicine intended for use in the diagnosis, cure,
mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease or suffering"
are exempt from sales tax. While the law is intended primarily
for medicines for humans, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander
says animal flea repellents and de-wormers also are exempt
if prescribed by a veterinarian.
State officials say the sales tax exemption
should save Texas families about $160 million in state and
local sales taxes during 2001, its first full year of implementation.
About 100,000 products -- ranging from allergy medications
and antacids to sunburn treatments and wound care products
-- will qualify for the exemption.
Texas law already exempts braces, crutches,
wheelchairs, hearing aids and their batteries, and hypodermic
needles and syringes. For a more detailed list of medical
product categories now exempt, call the Comptroller's toll-free
help line at 1-800-252-5555 or go to the Texas Comptroller's
legislature adjourns, taxes enacted
CHEYENNE -- Wyoming's 4 percent state sales and use tax
is now permanent, bringing to an end the 2000 session of the
The tax had been 3 percent with a temporary
addition of 1 percentage point due to expire in 2002. Gov.
Jim Geringer signed the bill making the increase permanent
on March 10.
Other tax measures also making it into
- Exemption of home-delivered water from
- Continuation of a 2-cent tax on fuels.
- Imposition of several transportation-related
taxes, including an excise tax on the commercial transport
of coal within the state, a 7-cent-per-mile tax on railroads
in the state and a sales tax on locomotive and railcar repairs.
for a new tourist tax in Florida
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida lawmakers say a tax on cruise ship
passengers is OK by them as long as county voters who would
have to pay it approve.
The Florida Marlins baseball club wants
a $4-per-person tax on the estimated 3 million passengers
expected to take pleasure cruises from the Port of Miami this
year alone. The money would help the club build a new ballpark
along the Miami waterfront. Marlins officials estimate the
tax would raise $320 million toward the club's planned 2003
opening of a $400 million stadium with a retractable dome,
38,000 seats and a view of Biscayne Bay.
Legislation filed in the state senate,
the Port Area Improvement Authority Act, would create an independent
seven-member authority to implement the cruise tax, but only
if approved by locally affected voters in a countywide referendum
in November. Cruise ships currently depart from the Port of
Miami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and the Port of Tampa.
The bill specifies that the passenger
tax could be levied only in a county with a population of
1.5 million or more according to the latest census estimates
and only where at least 900,000 people took multi-day cruises
during the past year. The Miami port right now is the only
one that meets both requirements, but Port Everglades in Broward
County, just north of Miami-Dade, is fast approaching 1.5
The Marlins have brought in former major
league players to lobby for the bill. But the Florida-Caribbean
Cruise Association doesn't plan to make it easy sailing for
The association, representing the 15 cruise
lines that operate in the state, calls the proposal a predatory
tax that creates a new level of bureaucracy. The cruise industry
warns the tax is likely to drive ships from Miami to other
ports, jeopardizing the $1.3 billion the leisure business
pumps into the Miami-Dade economy and the 6,000-plus cruise-related
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has not taken a
position on the issue, but he has opposed in the past the
use of tax money to aid privately owned sports teams. He previously
vetoed spending state money to help Vero Beach keep the Los
Angeles Dodgers as spring training tenants.