April 12, 2012
By Paul Owens
Recently, former Orange County Chairman and U.S.Sen. Mel Martinez called for Central Florida to look at a South Florida model to pay for programs to help the homeless: a 1 percent tax on higher-end restaurant meals.
The tax, adopted by Miami-Dade Countynearly two decades ago, generates about $18 million a year. With those dollars as leverage, the county has pulled in millions more from Washington to fight homelessness. The programs funded by all that money are credited with reducing the number of people living on Miami-Dade’s streets by 90 percent.
But the idea of adopting the tax in Central Florida got a cool reception from Orange County leaders this week. And restaurant-industry representatives argue eateries shouldn’t be singled out to bankroll homeless programs.