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Lieutenant governor collects tax concerns

By STEPHANIE HAYES
Published May 18, 2007


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Friends mingled and sipped coffee in the kitchen. Kids played in the driveway. It was a typical suburban get-together - until the guest of honor showed up.

Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp visited Todd Marks' Westchase home Monday night to talk about property taxes.

Kottkamp and Gov. Charlie Crist, who was in Miami on Monday, are working their way through Florida, holding town hall meetings and talking to citizens in small groups.

"We have an aggressive schedule to get around the state and hear from as many taxpayers as possible, " Kottkamp said.

Marks, who owns a law firm and title company in Westchase, was surprised to get a call from the governor's office asking him to host the event. Still, he jumped at the chance.

"I just said, 'Yeah, that would be great, ' " said Marks, who with wife, Jennifer, assembled about 30 friends and work colleagues to come to the gathering.

Kottkamp rolled into the Marks' driveway shortly after 7 p.m., bodyguard in tow. Kottkamp walked into the house, and the casual chatter died down as he moved around shaking hands.

Marks ushered Kottkamp into the kitchen to a chocolate cake emblazoned with the word "TAXES."

"We thought it would be appropriate that, with tonight's discussion, he take the first cut, " Marks said.

Kottkamp outlined Crist's plan, which calls for $33.5-billion in cuts over five years.

Realtors, title company workers and home builders peppered Kottkamp with questions:

What are you doing to help senior citizens?

Will cutting property taxes make impact fees shoot up?

Given the dismal real estate market, should home values be reassessed?

Without swift action, will Floridians pack up and get out of Dodge?

Kottkamp said he'll take the input back to Tallahassee, where a special legislative session on property taxes begins June 12.

"I think it's great to have the lieutenant governor come to our neighborhood in such an informal setting and really hear what we think of the proposals, " said Jeffry Ewing, president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.

Kottkamp posed for pictures in the driveway before heading off down Greenmont Drive.

The Marks family chatted with friends and answered the night's most pressing question - what's it like to have the lieutenant governor pop by for a visit?

"Of course, it's an honor, " Todd Marks said.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or 813 269-5303.

[Last modified May 17, 2007, 07:31:18]


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