One Economist says Property Tax bill helps those not suffering

06/14/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The Florida Legislature is moving toward placing an amendment before voters next January asking them to give up their popular Save Our Homes tax cap in exchange for a super-sized homestead exemption. The Senate voted unanimously today to put the question to voters in January, even though Democrats complained bitterly it could force massive layoffs in classroom and law enforcement. The House did likewise, setting up final votes later today in that chamber on a total tax package approaching $24 billion over five years. The Senate's 25-12 vote on the amendment itself divided along party lines, with Democrats rebuking the proposal as a dramatic overreaction to Florida's property tax spikes that could produce unforeseen slashes in local government services.

But Democrats backed down on the question of whether to set the vote for the Jan. 29 presidential primary or later in November 2008.

The Legislature was also slated today to pass a separate property tax cut and cap that would take effect this year, reduce local government revenues anywhere from 3 percent to 9 percent and limit future growth to population plus household income.

Senate Republicans accused the minority party of embellishing those cuts. The Legislature would have the choice in future years to make up the lost revenues to schools.

GOP senators also made a surprise concession early today to shore up support from its own members by giving homeowners more choice in whether they cast aside the popular Save Our Homes cap , or maintaining it. Winter Haven Senator Daniel Webster said homeowners would get a statement explaining what their tax bills would be with the new exemption, or if they stayed with Save Our Homes. If they ignore it, Webster said, they stay in the current system. It would also affect the total value of tax relief the plan is expected to provide over five years. The original plan to both roll back property tax levels this year and phase out Save Our Homes was projected to cut taxes by $31.6 billion over five years. But by allowing homeowners more choice, the total plan could be reduced to around $24 billion. Mark Soskin is an economics professor at the University of Central Florida. He says this plan will help those who were already benefiting, but do nothing for others who are currently hurting do to escalating property taxes (roll tape#1 o.q.”out of the state”) There will now be half a year before Floridians will vote to decide if they want this Supersize homestead exemption. And there’ll be many opponents of the plan campaigning against it. Despite the cry for lower property taxes, University of Central Florida Professor Mark Soskin says he’s not certain that it will pass (roll tape#2 o.q.”raising taxes again”) That was University of Central Florida Economics professor Mark Soskin.

Democrats argue the new plan  still fails to help taxpayers who need it

most. They also say it would force local governments to lay off police, firefighters and other employees and chop billions of dollars from public schools.

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