Opposing mineral tax measure was right thing

Published 11:45 am Monday, March 29, 2004

By Staff
Escambia County recently got a taste of what life for small communities around the state may be like for some time to come, thanks to a desperate need on the part of state lawmakers to find new sources of revenue however and wherever possible.
In other words, officials here became acquainted with the ever growing need to try and make sure plans cooked up in Montgomery aren't carried out at our expense.
The first of what may be many glimpses at the process of lawmakers' casting madly about for more cash came in the form of a proposed tax on minerals, to the tune of 10 cents per ton. "Minerals" means sand, gravel, sandstone, limestone and various other materials used primarily as part of construction efforts.
Placing a levy on them amounted, in what seems an open and above board way, to a new tax on a specific area of industry. And as much as can be said about any new tax, it seemed okay at first blush. But when looked at more closely, one tenet of the plan makes this deal a bad one for Escambia and other counties along state borders: the part that exempts minerals purchased for use outside the state, or minerals brought across our borders for use here.
Much of the minerals sold from Escambia and our neighboring counties go to the panhandle area for construction work there, which would keep our county from realizing the full benefits, in terms of new revenue that the new tax is meant to provide.
The tax could also tempt people currently buying minerals from Escambia businesses to cross the Florida state line for their materials, buying them where there is no 10-cents-per-ton levy.
All in all, the proposed tax would not do Escambia County much good, and could actually be harmful.
The county commission did the right thing last week by opposing the measure, and encouraging other area counties to do so as well. And going back another step, they did a good job of seeing this coming in time to make our voices heard on the matter.
It was a good reminder that the devil's only in the details when the details are allowed to slip by unnoticed.