06/11/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The state legislature begins its 2 week special session on property taxes tomorrow, fresh off a proposal with specific details that was finally produced late Friday afternoon.

Under the newly sketched plan, lawmakers would slash city and county taxes and replace the state's $25,000 homestead exemption and accompanying 3 percent assessment cap with a sort of super-exemption, that would give a 75 percent break on the first $200,000 of value. And homestead properties worth more would get an additional 15% off the next $300,000 in value.
The Total cost to local governments would be $31.6 billion over 5 years.
However the package of proposals doesn't include any major tax exemptions for those hit hardest by high taxes -- owners of second homes or commercial property -- though they would greatly benefit from the rollbacks and caps

Marty Altner owns several rental properties in Pinellas County. He says that it’s been fairly obvious for commercial property owners, and those with 2nd homes over the past year that they are bearing an inequitable burden on property taxes.

He says he likes the raising of the homestead exemption for homeowners, but thinks the legislature is missing those who are paying the most in property taxes.

The Senate’s lead property tax negotiator, Winter Garden Republican Daniel Webster, told the Miami Herald over the weekend that the legislature is giving bigger tax exemption for homeowners than property owners because “Once people have the benefit it’s difficult to pull away from”.

The St.Petersburg Times reported on Monday that increasing numbers of residents are moving out of Florida, due to rising property taxes and insurance rates. Rental property owner Marty Altner says that many landlords like himself are reacting by offering shorter leases to tenants.

The Save Our Homes amendment passed 15 years ago in Florida protest primary homeowners by holding down taxable values, but has left other properties – like businesses and rental properties- unprotected.

Mark Soskin is a professor of economics at the University of Central Florida. He said growth is grinding to a half in Florida, led in part because of the Save Our Homes exemption. He says it might be the best thing for the state to get rid of that law, but politically says that will never happen

Some property owners have been closely following the debate about property taxes over the past year – but their concerns somehow have not affected lawmakers as have the complaints from constituents complaining about their escalating property taxes.

University of Central Florida Economics Professor Mark Soskin says that in looking at the proposals released Friday night by House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt, the legislature is doing maybe the best they can with the hand they have. But he says that a few groups – like property owners – are getting absolutely no relief from Tallahassee

Should legislators have included business and property owners when extending the exemption on taxable property. Property Owner Marty Altner says that the politicians have failed this constutiency, and the state could continue to suffer economically because of that.

One politician most interested interested in how the Special Session works out is Governor Charlie Crist. Although a poll last week indicated that the Governor is still in the honey moon phrase with the electorate, his approval ratings HAVE gone down a notch on the issue of property taxes. According to a zogby Poll published over the weekend, when asked how he has done regarding property taxes, 54% said okay. That’s substantially lower than his overall ratings from voters, which have been in the 70s But Florida’s legislative leaders get far worse ratings from the public. House Speaker Marco Rubio and State Senate President Ken Pruitt drew only 20 percent support in the Zogby poll commissioned by several South Florida news organizations over the weekend.

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