Non-homesteaded exemption makes headway

10/16/07 Mitch E. Perry
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A House Committee in Tallahassee today passed what is being hailed as a revolutionary move in property tax policy, by imposing a 3 percent cap on all non-homesteaded property in Florida.

If the amendment is approved into law, it would bring about some fairness to who gets property tax relief in the state, something critics say has not been addressed in previous property tax cut plans.

West Palm Beach Democrat Shelley Vana said the proposal was praiseworthy for addressing the unfairness of the current tax structure, but she thought it was too radical and being voted on too quickly.

One of the biggest criticisms about the property tax reforms considered by legislators in Tallahassee is that the measures have done nothing for commercial landowners, snowbirds and landlords.

But Democrats had serious concerns about the fiscal impacts of such a move.

Jack Seiler from Winton Manors said he was concerned that the Legislature was going beyond the initial call regarding a property tax cut.

Republican Don Brown of De Funiak Springs said he was disturbed that some Democrats complained they did not have enough information to vote on the bill.

So after House Democrats on the Policy and Budget Committee voted to give non-homesteaded properties a 7 percent cap on assessments, Republicans countered with a 3 percent cap, the same rate that applies to homestead properties under Save Our Homes.

Republican Joe Pickins from Palatka said he preferred a compromise at 5 percent.

And Pickins said that Democrats and other critics were wrong to say that reducing the property taxes on non-homesteded properties will mean a cut in education spending.

Democrat Curtis Richardson represents Tallahassee in the state House. He said lawmakers were willing to vote on policy issues with the assumption that the state fully funds public education, which he says, is simply not the case.

Like other Democrats, Richardson said there was insufficient information to vote on the amendment on Tuesday, so why the rush?

Republican Frank Atkinson from Kissimeee said renters have been getting a raw deal, and this is one way to lock them in from being hit with large rent increases.

The bipartisan measure is being co-sponsored by Democrat Ron Saunders of Key West.

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