Unions to lobby against property tax amendment

11/14/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill yesterday that will put property tax changes into place if voters approve a constitutional amendment placed on the Jan. 29 ballot by lawmakers.

That amendment would, among other things, double the current $25,000 homestead exemption for local government but not school taxes; allow homeowners to take their Save Our Homes property assessment cap savings, up to $50,000, with them if they move; and create a similar assessment cap of 10 percent each year for nonresidential property taxes.

A poll taken last week and reported in the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald poll this weekend shows that 53 percent support the constitutional amendment. That’s a majority, but not the 60 percent required for the initiative to pass.

And if some of Florida’s public employee unions have any say, it won’t pass.

Doug Martin is a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees in Florida, also known as AFSCME.

Another group that will be mobilizing its members to fight against the amendment is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Van Church is political director for SEIU Florida Public Services Union. He says if the amendment passes, it would seriously reduce the quality and quantity of services that government can provide the citizenry.

Another group that plans to invest serious money into defeating the property tax amendment is the Florida Professional Firefighters Association. Its President, Bob Carver, was unavailable for comment, but told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently that his union is pledging a half-million dollars toward a campaign against the measure.

The public employees unions insist their opposition to the property tax plan isn’t just parochial. But more budget cuts to cities and counties undoubtedly means that some municipal employees will lose their jobs.

The SEIU’s Van Church says his union wants property taxes cut as much as anybody, but says the proposal on January’s ballot is not the answer.

AFSCME’S Doug Martin says most citizens will lose more than they’ll gain if the amendment passes.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that although most major business groups in the state support the constitutional amendment, only the Florida Association of Realtors has said it will financially get behind a campaign for its passage.

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