by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Rep. Pat Garofalo cradled a squirming, vocal, four-month-old puppy named Milo in the House tax committee today (Tuesday, Jan. 25), suggesting the committee held Milo’s future in its collective hands.
“If anyone wants to testify against puppies and kittens, I’d be all ears,” quipped Garofalo, R-Farmington, during the hearing on his proposed sales tax exemption.
Garofalo’s bill would provide a sales tax exemption for pets sold by non-profit animal rescue shelters — the sale price cannot exceed the cost of caring for the animal.
Garofalo explained the bill as a means of helping out organizations providing valuable services.
Taking care of problems
Lawmakers preach the virtues of nongovernmental groups taking care of problems, Garofalo explained to committee. This was a means of helping them, he explained.
Appearing with Garofalo was Sandra Shirley, a volunteer with Last Hope, Inc., a no-kill animal rescue group loosely based in Farmington.
Shirley, cradling another puppy, Joey, said Last Hope had been in operation for 27 years and last year alone helped some 1500 animals find new homes.
“We work hard and give fully for the love of our animals, “ she said of the groups 50 to 100 volunteers.
Asked by Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, what kind of budget the group had, Shirley had a one-word answer.
“Zero,” she said.
No one is paid. Last Hope actually has no shelter, said Shirley.
Offered for adoption
Animals move from the vets, to private homes, to be offered for adoption on the Internet or at showings at malls.
The group took in some $238,000 in donations last year — people who adopt Last Hope animals are not required to pay — but the veterinarian bills amounted to almost $300,000.
They made good the difference in part through garage sales and other fund raisers, Shirley indicated.
But last year, Last Hope paid some $15,300 in state sales tax — a half months worth of vet bills, she noted.
In 2009, the group paid $17,477 — that money could have paid for spaying some 200 dogs, Shirley explained.
That no one testified against Garofalo’s bill was a good sign for it, said House tax committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston.
But some concerns were heard about the terminology in the bill. Garofalo said he was willing to work with committee members to find “comfort” language.
Davids held the bill over for possible inclusion in a larger tax bill.
The proposed sales tax exemption would cost the state about $300,000 the first year.