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Plan would end tax on homestead property

Published February 20, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - House Republicans are developing a proposal to eliminate property taxes for all homesteads while increasing the sales tax by a few pennies to make up the difference.

The plan, which has quietly gained favor among House leaders in recent days but lacks detail and has yet to be announced, also calls for capping property taxes on businesses, second homes and other nonhomestead property.

The cap would likely be tied to population growth and inflation.

"Everyone's pretty excited about it," Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said after emerging from a property tax summit in the House on Monday afternoon.

Property taxes promise to be the most challenging issue in the Legislature's upcoming session, in part because of the inequities in the current system, which favors long-term homeowners over new residents while pushing more of the burden on nonhomestead property.

An increasing number of lawmakers feel the best remedy is to simply get rid of property taxes homestead owners pay to schools, cities, counties and special taxing districts. The idea is contained in House Speaker Marco Rubio's book 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future.

Doing so would require a voter-approved change to the Florida Constitution.

To offset lost revenue, the sales tax would be bumped up nearly 3 cents. The current sales tax is 6 cents per dollar, although some local governments have gotten voter approval for slightly higher amounts.

Each cent increase generates about $3.75-billion.

"I don't think it's a tax increase; it's a tax shift," said Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami.

But an increased sales tax could hurt businesses in North Florida, where shoppers could go to Georgia or another state. Also, sales taxes hurt the poor more than other income groups. Vacationers, too, would pay more to visit Florida.

"The devil will be in the details," said Sarah Bleakley, a lobbyist for the Florida Association of Counties.

[Last modified February 20, 2007, 05:41:21]

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