Hey, let's tax that other guy instead

Published April 29, 2007

Nobody likes property taxes except me.

I don't mind paying a fair amount of taxes on my house, because it pays for the schools, the parks, and the police and fire departments.

"The price tag for civilization" is how somebody once defined taxes.

But, of course, I am an idiot and a sucker for thinking that way. The proper thing is to despise taxes altogether.

One can't even say, "I believe local taxes have grown too fast and we need to yank hard on the reins."

That is not enough. Instead, as our state House advocates, we ought to get rid of taxes on our houses altogether.

No property taxes on my house! What could be sweeter?

There is a catch. Getting rid of all the taxes on homes means that even my Republican friends who run the state House would have to raise taxes somewhere else.

So here is their idea: Everybody should pay more sales tax at the cash register, up to 2.5 cents more on the dollar. Depending on your county, that could mean a tax of up to 9.5 cents on the dollar.

Make no mistake: The idea is to transfer much of the tax burden from the class of homeowners to the class of consumers in general.

Also make no mistake: This is probably a sweet deal if you are a homeowner. For the past week, I've been hearing from Floridians who have done the math and figure they will come out way ahead.

So if that is your sole consideration - will I, personally, save the most money? - then by all means, you should support the House's plan.

I suppose a whiny person might point out that there are hidden costs in this plan, costs that can't be calculated yet. What is the cost per household for a future police officer not hired, a school not built, a park not bought?

But that kind of argument is for sissies.

So, too, is the argument that relying on a sales tax is not the smartest idea. Sales tax can be notoriously volatile, especially when the economy turns down, which it does from time to time. But who cares?

Neither is it any use to argue that the sales tax is unfair. The less money you make in Florida, the bigger a percentage of your income that goes to sales taxes. This is, I suppose, the fault of those dumb poor people. They spend their money on shoes and soap for their kids, and not for the things that Florida doesn't tax - accountants, lawyers, lawn services, that sort of thing.

So I am left with one final argument: The goal, when our Legislature went to Tallahassee two months ago, was just to fix Florida's local property taxes, not to upheave the state's whole danged tax philosophy on the fly.

There were two problems to address: Local taxes had grown too fast, because of high property values, and taxes had gotten too skewed, because of the effects of the Save Our Homes cap.

The state Senate, in reply, has come up with a plan: Roll back local taxes. Cap how fast they can go up in the future. Give some help to people trapped by the Save Our Homes mess.

I dunno. The Senate just seems more ... conservative.

* * *

Agree? Disagree? Don't like my haircut? All week long readers have been debating taxes and other issues at my online blog, TroxBlog. Go to www.tampabay.com, click on the "Blogs" link, and look for TroxBlog there.