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Property Tax Cuts Passage Remains Unclear

Tallahassee, FL – It is unclear whether the Florida Legislature will produce a property tax reform package. Lawmakers are working on many fronts to gather the supermajority needed to pass a proposal and a second supermajority to get it on a January ballot. James Call reports, House members are working a plan that cuts taxes more than what the Senate has agreed to do.

House members returned to Tallahassee Monday cautisiouly optimistic about the
legislature's ability to a produce a property tax cut plan. Tarpon Springs representative Peter Nehr says the three days away gave lawmakers time to study schemes creating a super homestead exemption and relief for retirees.

The usually partisan driven house appears to be coming together behind a democratic
plan tieing a tax emeption to a county's median home value. Miami Beach Democratic
representative Luis Garcia, last week cursed a proposal produced by the Republican leadership. But now, he says the divide between Republican and Democratic members is closing.

House Leaders want a an 11 billion dollar tax cut. Democrats howled such a cut would
cost public schools almost 2 billion ldollars. But after reworking a proposal, Winter Park's Dean Cannon, the House's point man on property taxes, says the impact to schools has been cut in half.

Democrats still talk about holding schools harmless. And it will take Democratic votes to achieve a super majority to place the measure before voters. Plus, the Senate has already rejected the idea of a super exemption like the House will propose. Still, House Minority Leader Dan Gelber says when the House passes a bill and the two chambers meet in conference the Legislature will be able to jump those hurdles. The Senate may not return until Thursday. Lawmakers have until Sunday to reach an agreement to get a proposal on the January ballot.

Monday, he House Democrats say they will vote against the property tax implementing
bill unless it is changed to give more flexibility to local government. The implementing bill, 7003D, currently contains language requiring a unanimous vote to override caps. Democrats -- who know Republicans need their support for passage -- want to change the unanimous language to a two-thirds vote.

House Democrats have just decided to reject the 44-page implementing bill, HB
7003D, that accompanies the House's latest proposed constitutional amendment
to be voted on the House floor today. Their reason: the bill requires the legislature to limit local government taxing authority unless there is a unanimous vote of the city or county government. Democrats met as a caucus and decided they want the threshold for an override of the legislature to be two-thirds vote
and, unless Republicans agree to qn amendment by Rep. Jack Seiler, they will
vote as a bloc against the bill.
Republicans need Democratic votes because, according to the staff analysis, the
bill imposes a mandate on local governments and therefore requires a two-thirds
vote of each chamber -- or 80 votes.
House Democrats have also decided not to agree to allow any bills to come up for final passage, or third reading today. This will force the chamber to be in session again on Tuesday, even though House Speaker Marco Rubio is expected to return home tonight to Miami. Rubio's seven-week-old son was hospitalized over the weekend because of doctor's concerns about his failure to gain sufficient weight.
Lawmakers face an Oct. 29 deadline to pass any final plan in time for the Jan. 29 ballot.

The Senate last week passed a plan that largely mirrors the original agreement between Gov. Charlie Crist, House and Senate leaders and Democrats.

Democrats have to go along because they can block the supermajority vote needed in
both chambers for final passage.

The Senate plan would provide an additional $25,000 homestead exemption applied to
the second $50,000 of a home's value. It also would allow homeowners to take their
Save Our Homes assessment caps with them then they move.

The plan also would give a 25 percent break to new homebuyers and a $25,000 exemption for the taxes businesses pay for equipment and furniture and other items.

Senate negotiators say the House broke the deal when it added sweeping measures that
would apply a 5 percent, Save Our Homes, like assessment cap to all property, ending
the special status homeowners have enjoyed since 1994.

After negotiations broke down last week, the House began working on new provisions
that would slash the total price tag from $14 billion to $11 billion and reduce the hit to schools to about $900 million.

The newest idea, pushed by House Democrats, is to tie an increased homestead exemption based on the median home value in the county where the homeowner resides.

House lead negotiator Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, also agreed to drop another proposal
to increase the state's 6-cent sales tax by a penny and use the money to offset the taxes property owners pay for schools.

Republican House leaders plan to tack the latest proposal onto the Senate plan and wait for the other chamber to respond. It's unclear where the standoff will go from there.