Florida's system of raising revenue antiquated?

09/05/08 Mitch E. Perry
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In the wake of the Florida Supreme Court removing Amendment 5 from this November’s ballot, legislative leaders in Florida say they will again make property taxes a top issue in their annual spring session.

But some say the Legislature shouldn’t wait that long to act. Florida Chief Financial Office Alex Sink says now that Florida has a $1.5 billion shortfall, Gov. Charlie Crist should call a special session to be held the day after the November presidential election. That call has been seconded by the Tampa Tribune editorial board.

Outgoing House Speaker Mario Rubio, now a part-time professor at Florida International University in Miami, says his House of Representatives had excellent ideas to address escalating property taxes two years ago, but were thwarted by his GOP colleagues in the State Senate.

Democrat Steven Geller is the outgoing Minority Leader in the Florida State Senate. He told WMNF that in the future, perhaps the Legislature should look at a state income tax. Geller is term-limited out of office, and since he's not up re-election he can muse that such a tax should be considered.

Winter Park House Republican Dean Cannon told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the Legislature should focus on bringing more equity to Florida’s tax system. He says some ideas being discussed including shifting toward a system more reliant on sales taxes, or a government spending cap to link local and state spending to the growth in family income.

Currently, 70 percent of the the state’s general revenue comes from the tax on retail sales. In an editorial, the Tribune said because the Legislature refuses to tax Internet sales, a new inequity is being imposed on brick and mortar businesses.

There has been grave disappointment that the Budget and Taxation Commission – which convenes only once every 20 years – failed to come up with any plans that had bipartisan support. Instead, the group proposed Amendments 5, 7 & 9 – which were all rejected by the Supreme Court earlier this week.

Amendment 5 would have reduced property taxes, but critics worried that it would have left a gaping whole in education funding.

Rubio said he supported the tax swap amendment, but reserves his ire for those who placed their bets on the Budget and Taxation Commission.

Amendment 5 was the brainchild of former Senate Leader John McKay of Bradenton. Years ago, McKay had proposed -- both through the Legislature and as a possible constitutional amendment -- examining all of the items in the state that currently receive a tax exemption. But that ultimately proved too hot of a potato.

Another possibility to reduce property taxes is a citizens group’s initiative that is trying to get on the 2010 ballot that would limit property taxes to 1.35 percent of a home’s value.

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