tampabay.com

House GOP tax rollback plan evolves

By ALEX LEARY
Published March 15, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - Facing intense criticism over their plan to cut property taxes, House Republicans have agreed to considerable changes to lessen the impact on local governments.

A proposed rollback of property tax levels to the 2003-04 fiscal year is three years later than originally proposed. That could save counties millions. Specifics were not available Wednesday afternoon.

Also, some rural counties would be exempt from the rollback, as would hospital taxing districts - resolving concerns the proposal would have devastating effects on small counties and some agencies.

The changes affect legislation that would amend the state constitution.

The House remains firm in its desire to replace all property taxes on homesteads in favor of a 2.5 percent sales tax increase.

But local governments have lambasted the rollback proposal, which also includes a cap on future revenue growth. On Wednesday, House Speaker Marco Rubio heard from a large contingent from Miami-Dade.

Another criticism being addressed is the lack of relief for renters. Rubio and other leaders said they are open to help property owners that meet fair rent standards. "At the end of the day, we're trying to provide meaningful relief," said Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. "And if there's another way to get there and stay in that box, we're open."