Florida's flush, so why not wipe away toilet paper tax?

Now that the Legislature is in session for the next two months, it's time to get down to business. For me, that means re-launching my campaign to wipe the toilet paper sales tax off the rolls.

My slogan: This is a movement we can all get behind.

(Pause for groans.)

Beyond the sophomoric chance at potty humor, there's a serious point. Florida's sales-tax system is grossly unfair and inconsistent, with some 249 exemptions. Some are logical (exemptions on most groceries and medicines), while others are ridiculous (charter fishing boats, gold bullion worth more than $500, aircraft parts, luxury suites in college stadiums, electricity used in pork and beef packing plants.) Many exemptions are testament to the clout wielded by special interests. Many favor big businesses and the wealthy.

I say exempting toilet paper would bring equitable tax relief to all Floridians: Democrat and Republican, young and old, outhouse to penthouse. After all, everyone uses toilet paper. I hope.

This seems like the perfect time to do it. Gov. Scott and legislators want to cut $500 million in taxes and fees during an election year, and the state is projected to have a $1 billion surplus, thanks to a rebounding economy.

Some proposals working their way through the Legislature: cutting fees on auto tag registrations and drivers licenses; eliminating sales tax on business leases; and bringing back sales-tax holidays on school supplies, clothing, electronics and hurricane supplies.

But so far, no toilet paper relief.

When I looked through some current bills, I was dismayed to find that Sen. Jerermy Ring, D-Parkland, has sponsored a special-interest exemption bill. SB 500 would eliminate sales tax on home and business security systems. Senate analysts project the bill would cut at least $56 million from the state's general revenue fund.

I say if the state is so flush, then how about giving us all a bathroom break?

"I think it's a great idea," Ring said Wednesday. "But I can't make any promises."

He said he would ask for a staff analysis of how much a toilet-paper exemption would cost. The state collects some $21 billion in sales tax, with another $11 billion spared by exemptions.

When the Legislature first imposed the sales tax in the late 1940s, it exempted basic necessities but not "grooming and hygiene items."

So now luxury foodstuffs like truffle oil and stone crabs are not taxed, but toilet paper and tampons are. Junk food like potato chips and cookies are not taxed, but sunscreen (which prevents skin cancer) is. Ice cream sold in large containers isn't taxed, but toothpaste (which prevents cavities) is.

If you feel the current system is crazy and want to see sales tax on toilet paper wiped away, feel free to sign my petition at Change.org. You can find it at sunsentinel.com/sparethesquares.

mmayo@tribune.com; 954-356-4508.