Property tax amendment dies in committee

Feb 7, 2012

Lawmakers killed a proposal to amend the state constitution to cut property taxes. Regan McCarthy reports legislators say property tax reform is warranted, but worry about the impact the proposal could have had on local governments.

Representative Jason Brodeur, a Republican from Sanford, says his bill was intended to cut down on the inequities in the state’s property taxes—It’s a move Representative Charles Van Zant, a Keystone Heights Republican, says is sorely needed.

“There is so much disparity between what is real property tax value. So when you have a value tax system and one person’s property is next to another person’s property that is the same identical structure, land services and all the rest of it, but the property tax is like three times its next door neighbor that’s wrong. That’s just plain wrong.”

Van Zant says he’d like for the tax to be totally replaced in the future by a consumptive use tax, like sales tax.

“That’s wrong for one governmental entity to be able to establish value and then say you’re going to pay tax on this value or else. It is not wrong for a governmental entity to say this is the sales tax.”

In the meantime, Brodeur says his bill creates what’s called a “super homestead exemption” Brodeur’s proposal would grant an exemption on property taxes for up to a certain percent of the value of a property—a percent lawmakers would be able to change each year. But those opposed to the bill say they’re worried such an exemption would take too much money away from local governments. Republican Representative Fred Costello of Ormond Beach says he’s not a fan of property taxes, but he says Brodeur’s bill lets the state “bully” local governments.

“We should stop being proud of cutting somebody else’s taxes. I am proud when we cut our own taxes, I am not proud when we cut somebody else’s taxes.

Costello says the state is shifting costs to local governments while decreasing their revenue sources.

We’ve shifted some Medicaid costs to the locals, we shifted the county health department cost to the locals, we tried to eliminate the business tax revenue, which did not go through finance and tax, but that was brought up, we  have increased the corporate income tax exemption, which I whole heartedly support for the job efforts. We’re talking about increasing homestead exemption. All these things are continue assaults on the ability of local governments to fund themselves.”

Representative Mark Pafford, a Democrat from West Palm Beach, calls the bill fiscally irresponsible. He says the measure would inhibit the ability of local governments to provide services and says that would cut down on quality of life.

West Palm Beach has been ranked as the 4th most miserable city this week. Miami number one. So we can talk games and play games with taxes, but if people have no quality of life when they come here to me that is probably the worst thing you can do for the economy.”

Fort Lauderdale also placed on Forbes Magazine’s list of the most miserable cities in the country. It ranked 7th.  Lawmakers, like Representative Scott Randolph, an Orlando Democrat, also brought up concerns about the provision that would let legislators change the exemption annually. Randolph says that could hurt communities bonding abilities

“Any type of bond rating company is going to come in and give a huge negative outlook to Florida.”

And Randolph cautions the measure would not cut taxes. It would only shift them. The proposal died in the House community and Military affairs committee with a tied vote.