More Sales Tax Instead of Property Tax? By Roxanne Escobales

02/20/07
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Governor Charlie Crist recently appointed 11 people to the state’s taxation and budget reform commission. That’s his share out of total 29 members. That body meets every 20 years, and this time round coincides with the Florida’s property tax crisis.

 

In Tallahassee, state house lawmakers have been discussing replacing property tax on homes with a flat sales tax. In fact, Melbourne Representative Mitch Needleman filed a bill that would eliminate all property taxes. But local governments urge caution and deliberation before any dramatic changes get voted into law.

 

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Chris Holley is the executive director of the Florida Association of Counties, which represents county commissions.

 

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Several press reports outline a plan by House Republicans that would do away with homestead taxes, and instead raise the sales tax almost three cents from its current level of 6 cents. But critics say raising the state sales tax would unfairly impact the poor.

 

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Jim Smith is the property appraiser for Pinellas County.

 

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Yet many see the sales tax as a means to do away with an unfair property tax system, that sees some protected by a tax cap and their neighbors paying much higher rates. Chris Holley of the Florida Association of Counties.

 

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Yet Holley says the legislature must iron out many details before moving ahead on any changes, such as how the tax would be distributed and how it may affect local governments from getting bonds.

 

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Pinellas County appraiser Jim Smith says the property –or ad valorem – tax has brought stability to local governments and bodies such a school boards that provide necessary services.

 

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On Monday, Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio sent round a memo warning lawmakers that the state budget would be lower than expected, partly because sales tax collections have gone down by 165 million dollars. That means legislator’s pet projects would be put on hold. If the losses in the budget turn out to be too large, even existing funding will have to be cut.

 

Yet even if lawmakers agree to shift homestead property tax to a sales tax, voters would get the final say , as any changes to the state constitution need voter approval.

 

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