Tax-reform deal approved

Oct 30, 2007

Florida Today, 10/30/2007

Ins and outs of property-tax cuts
Tax cuts by county

A bitterly divided Legislature voted Monday to put a $12 billion property-tax relief package before voters Jan. 29 in a plan hatched largely behind closed doors only the day before.

The stripped-down proposal calls for doubling the $25,000 homestead exemption for resident homeowners whose houses are worth more than $50,000, a move estimated to save the average homeowner about $240.

Homesteaders would be able to take up to $500,000 in Save Our Homes assessment protections with them when they move. Businesses would get a $25,000 exemption on equipment they pay taxes on.

The final 97-18 House vote was a victory for Gov. Charlie Crist, who negotiated an original deal with House and Senate leaders before the special session convened two weeks ago.

With its fate up in the air until late in the evening, Crist spent much of the day furiously working the phones trying to garner support. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, a former Fort Myers legislator, was a frequent presence on the House floor.

”The people have won,” Crist told reporters after the vote. ”Three months from tomorrow, the power is in their hands.”

House Speaker Marco Rubio, breaking from tradition, stepped from the rostrum to address the House from the floor, acknowledging members’ disappointment with provisions stripped from the resolution but encouraging them to keep their passion for the issue.

”This tremendous opportunity we haven’t missed. It’s historic in both scope and breadth,” Rubio said. ”No crisis in the history of the world has ever gone away by itself.”

Earlier in the day, the Senate voted 35-4 on the compromise measure, then announced it would accept no changes.

”Our work is done,” said a somber Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

Frustrated House members railed against the Senate’s heavy-handed tactics.

”What did we do to give people some real property taxes relief in the state of Florida?” said Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, one of the measure’s harshest critics.

For the first time, commercial and non-homestead property owners, would get a 10-percent, Save Our Homes-like cap on annual assessments.

That’s twice as high a 5 percent cap originally proposed by the House and the plan was quickly attacked by one of the state’s largest business groups.

The National Federation of Independent Business sent a last-minute message to Rubio asking him to lower the cap to at least 7 percent, the average increase over the past five years.

Gone from the plan were House proposals to eliminate property taxes for low-income seniors, a one-time, 25 percent break for new home buyers and breaks for waterfront homeowners. The Senate also got rid of a House proposal to give a minimum homestead exemption equal to 40 percent of each county’s median home values.

Plans to encourage affordable and energy efficient housing also fell by the wayside.

Estimating the full savings for taxpayers, and the cost to local governments and schools, is difficult if not impossible.

For example, nobody knows how many people will take advantage of the Save Our Homes portability option, a key component demanded by the Florida Association of Realtors and one supporters say will spark a sluggish housing market.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, told Democrats earlier in the day that internal polling suggested that between 20 percent and 30 percent of homesteaders would move if the Save Our Homes protections could go with them to a new place.

Legislative analysts predicted the Senate plan, sold as one that would protect schools from big losses, would cost education $1.86 billion over the next five years, about $859 million more than the original House proposal.

The plan had something to disappoint just about everyone.

The plan includes setting aside about $7 million a year to bail out ”fiscally constrained” counties, but Rep. Curtis Richardson, D-Tallahassee, likened it to a new welfare program.

”They will depend on welfare from the state,” he said.

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First of all, if FT is going to report the news, please get it right. THE SCORE OF THE GAME WAS 42-30 not 42-20. This is the second day in a row that you got it wrong. It was reported that way yesterday (10/29/07).

I think it is a disgrace that the SEC is letting Richt get away with a slap on the hand. He should be personally fined and the university should be fined as well. He shouldn’t have to resort to intentional classless unsportsmanlike penalties to fire up his team. This was childish and shows what an awful motivator he is. This puts him in the same class as Les Miles. Also a childish classless self centered individual. Not sure if anyone caught his post game interview when LSU was beaten by a very good Kentucky team in 3OT. Not once did he mention how well Kentucky played. It was all about him and how his team needs to work harder and he needs to work harder as well. Plain and simple, he was beaten by a team that wanted it more and Les Miles was outcoached that day. You will never hear him admit that because he is not man enough. His ego won’t let him admit that. Well on Saturday, Mark Richt put himself before the team. He is lucky that the 30 yard penalty didn’t come back to haunt him. He should be fined for this and the NCAA should make an example out of him. If he was playing a Miami or another classless team like Georgia, this could have ended in another brawl like the Clemson/USC or Miami/FIU brawls that we have historically seen. Of course Richt never thought this through. What an embarrassment for the University of Georgia.

Posted by: SPORTSFANATIC on Tue Oct 30, 2007 1:45 am

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