I suppose I should be grateful the State of Florida is discussing ways to cut my taxes, rather than lower them. It's just that there were a couple of really good ideas out there a few months ago, and now a rather lame and complicated scheme is coming out on top.
"You always fear the worst, but I'm pleasantly surprised and optimistic," said Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, who as president of the Florida Association of Counties has been a leading voice against drastic tax reductions.
It galls me to hear a public official faced with the specter of tax cuts wail about impossibility. Bull. Susan, you did in fact run the County 5 years ago on the 2002 budget, and you could again. Susan, you're a nice lady to meet at a cocktail party, but you're ruining people's lives with your heavy taxes. You're more like a Sheriff of Nottingham than a county commissioner.
The plan has two major components. One is a rollback of tax revenues for local governments, and the other is a sharp expansion of the state's homestead exemption...
It was commercial landowners, snowbirds and landlords who cried the loudest last summer for a break in property taxes because their bills have risen fastest. Yet, almost two-thirds of the new savings go to homesteaders...
And there were new fears Friday about cuts to local school budgets. While Pruitt and Rubio pledged to hold schools harmless in the tax deal, the proposal would cut school budgets by $7.1-billion over the next five years. Lawmakers will have to find a way to replace that money.
"This is very unsettling and gives us a queasy feeling," said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association. "It's kind of 'trust us' deal."
Man, I HATE those greedy school people. Loathe them. Despise them. Greedy manipulative liars...
The biggest challenge politically will be winning approval in the Legislature for the new "super" homestead exemption. Tinkering with the homestead exemption, available only to primary residences, means changing the state Constitution. That requires a three-fourths majority in the House and Senate, plus voter approval.
Under the proposal released Friday, the current $25,000 flat exemption would be replaced by a system that provides a 75 percent exemption on the first $200,000 in home value. The next $300,000 would get an additional 15 percent exemption. So a home valued at $400,000 would be taxed on only $220,000.
A minimum exemption of $50,000 would be guaranteed.
Longtime homeowners who already have especially low tax bills because of the Save Our Homes cap on annual assessments would be allowed to keep their existing tax bill...
Aside from the local government rollback, businesses get relatively few benefits, including an exemption of $25, 000 in taxes on equipment.
The local government tax rate rollback will be easier to enact because it requires only a straight majority vote of the Legislature before being sent to the governor. Under the proposal, property tax revenues for city and county budgets for the coming fiscal year 2007-2008, which begins Oct. 1, would freeze at the current year's level.
Each local government would also have to make additional cuts to their property tax revenues of either 3, 5, 7 or 9 percent, depending on how much they had raised taxes between 2001 and 2006.
The rollback plan would generate an average saving for all property owners of about 6 or 7 percent in the first year.
Future tax revenue growth would be capped by the rate of personal income growth and population in a city or county. City and county elected officials could break the limitations through a supermajority vote...
The problems with this plan are:
- It's not enough.
- It's not fair.
1.) Local governments are not being forced to take any significant cuts. 7%? give me a break. Latvala, her cronies and fellow fool travelers have been on a spending spree of Neronic orgiastic proportions. 7%? Latvala has raised local spending 75% over the past 5 or so years. The idea of capping spending at this year's budget level is outrageous and misses the point entirely. Those fools need to be forced to CUT SPENDING.
2.) Taxes should be paid by every one. They should be spread fairly. They should bear some relationship to what they cost. As with the existing tax system, the new proposal would have it so that two identical condominiums, side by side in the same complex, could have vastly different tax bills because one is lived in full-time and the other only seasonally. Guess who pays a lot more? The seasonal one. That's what the "homestead" is all about, and it's grossly unfair. Same with business properties.
People are starting to leave the state, especially snow birds and businesses who have choices. They have been royally screwed by rising taxes in the last few years, and this proposal does nothing to fix that. If they should start leaving in great numbers, and should their exodus create falling property values, I wonder what Susan Latvala would do then?