TALLAHASSEE, FLA., SEPT. 30 -- The Florida Senate voted today to repeal the state's service tax and to raise the sales tax 20 percent, but the House later rejected a proposal to repeal the controversial service tax outright.
The House voted 68 to 48 to retain the services tax with minor revisions and put the measure to a nonbinding vote by state's electorate. The House then defeated a measure 62 to 55 to repeal the levy without replacing it.
The amendment forces the bill back to the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday and then again to the House floor.
That could force an extension of the special session called by Gov. Bob Martinez (R) beyond the scheduled noon Friday adjournment.
House Speaker Jon Mills, a Democrat, said, "It's much more important to do this right than to do this quickly."
The proposed House revision would make few substantive changes in the 5 percent sales tax on services but would put the issue to a nonbinding referendum on a statewide ballot in March.
The referendum would give voters a choice between the revised sales tax and a 1-cent increase in the general sales tax on goods, as had been proposed by the state Senate.
But tonight's House action could be for naught because new amendments -- ranging from further revision to repeal -- could be heard when the bill returns to the House floor.
"Everthing is still open," said House Finance and Taxation Chairman Winston Gardner, a Democrat. "I can't predict even for an hour at a time."
Martinez asked that the service tax be repealed and $400 million be cut from the state budget.