February 12, 2009
Off the table?
Calif. sales tax on veterinary services loses steam
By: Timothy Kirn
For The VIN News Service
A proposal in California to tax veterinary services to help close
state budget gaps appears to have been dropped in lawmaker negotiations.
feeling pretty hopeful that it is not in this phase” of the budget
negotiations, says Valerie Fenstermaker, executive director of the
California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). “But we have to keep
working at it.”
In November, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed
implementing a 10-percent sales tax on veterinary services, including
routine exams and vaccinations, as a way to ease an estimated
$40-billion state revenue shortfall. The state has not passed a budget
since 2007, and the governor’s office is threatening to lay off 10,000
workers if a spending plan is not hammered out soon.
Whether the veterinary services tax proposal truly has been rejected is not entirely clear at press time.
latest negotiated plan between the governor and the top four state
legislators was revealed to the public on Tuesday, in very broad terms.
Nobody apart from the leaders has seen the actual language. But, during
the announcement, at least some of the plan’s specific measures for
raising revenue were discussed, and the veterinary service tax was not
What is clear, however, is a plan to raise personal
income taxes across the board, increase California's vehicle license
fee and increase gasoline taxes by 12 cents per gallon as well as the
current sales tax by 1 cent on the dollar.
Alicia Trost, a
spokeswoman for Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, says
lawmakers are not revealing details of the plan at present because it
is scheduled to go to the floor of the Legislature’s two chambers on
Friday, where a vote could take place.
But she says newspaper
reports about the plan are accurate and notes that none of the reports
mention the veterinary services tax.
“So, good news for you,” she says.
change comes just days after California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office
advised against the idea, predicting that such a tax would create
“inequities in the tax structure” because it suggests taking away the
sales tax exemption from some services but not all. Opponents of the
sales tax also warned that it could increase the cost of affected
veterinary services by as much as 10 percent, which could significantly
CVMA has lobbied heavily to block the tax
proposal, leading a letter-writing drive that implores veterinarians to
contact their individual legislators and the governor’s office.
says the grassroots effort has been successful, spurring what she
estimates to be "thousands and thousands" of letters, e-mails and phone
The initiative could be resurrected as state budget
discussions continue. However, Fenstermaker is optimistic, stating that
the tax proposal came from the governor and probably does not have much
support outside of that office.
“We talked with a lot of legislators who did not think it was a good idea,” she says.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email email@example.com.
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