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Exemptions Get Lip Service

March 5th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

A number of high powered lobbyists arguing to keep tax exemptions on skyboxes, eyeglasses and yacht repairs made their case before sympathetic lawmakers today, but just as the meeting was breaking up, Mike Vasilinda tells us their efforts were overshadowed by a mother of three.

35 year old Pamela Hemmen is a mom on a mission. She drove 3 hours from St. Augustine to the Capitol, then waited for two hours as lobbyist after lobbyist made their case to keep their tax exemptions. After a presentation about exemptions on American Flags, Committee Chair Ellyn Bogdanoff asked rhetorically “Does anyone want to touch this one?” The comment brought laughter.

With just four minutes left in the 2 hour meeting, she got up, told lawmakers she’d never testified before, then blasted them for even considering allowing some exemptions to remain. ”When you are on the fence about some of this issues and whether it is really and truly going to help the people as a whole…not just this one certain class who drives a Mercedes.” Lectured Hemmen.

Hemmen has already organized her kid’s elementary school and brought dozens of hand written notes. She described one which said ”I watched President Obama last night and he urged all of us to get more education. Why are you cutting our education. Didn’t you watch the President?”

The mother of three is fighting an up hill battle. The GOP stacked committee and Chairwoman Bogdanoff like most of the exemptions it is reviewing.

“I think this is an important exercise” says Representative Bogdanoff, “because I believe the public perceives that these sales tax exemptions are just give away, and very often they are not.”

The chairwoman was quick to note the exemptions under review total just 500 million..when the state faces a deficit 10 times bigger. Hemmen says she plans to keep coming back weekly until someone listens.

Hemmen is from St. Augustine, is a realtor, has an MBA and has children ranging from Pre School to 3rd grade. All total, Florida exempts more from the sales tax than it receives each year.

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