Today's Letters: Property tax crisis could be solved with income tax

Published May 23, 2007

Tax cuts skip hardest hit May 21, story 

I wish Florida's legislators well in their efforts to "equalize" the property tax (read: reduce the tax for everybody) but see little hope that they can. And if they don't, Florida will continue to lurch from one property tax crisis to another.

The basic problem is that Florida relies on only two taxes - sales and property - to produce revenue sufficient to fund burgeoning budgets caused by inflation and a burgeoning population. Forty-three states do it with a three-tax system: sales, property and income. Our problem is compounded by Floridians' intense hostility toward taxes - all taxes. We hear endlessly about pork in government budgets - and we should. But government isn't about pork. It's about schools, police and fire protection, libraries and roads on which we can safely drive our 12-mile-per-gallon Hummers.

When the property tax was administered as written into law, a taxpayer had only to know the approximate market value of his/her property. But the Save Our Homes tax cap complicated the process, and efforts to solve the current crisis promise to complicate it further, beyond the ability of taxpayers - or assessors - to fairly administer it. Consider two of the recent proposals: use a sliding scale of deduction percentage or allow a deduction equal to half the home value in the county. How on earth can these - piled onto already existing exemptions - make the tax fairer?

What's needed is, first, a program of informing voters about some basic realities: Florida's per-capita tax burden is not high compared with the other states. Second, fairness in taxation cannot be achieved under a tax system featuring two regressive taxes (sales and property). The system needs balance that an income tax, based on ability to pay, would provide. Why is this so hard for Floridians to accept? Ninety percent of the U.S. population lives with a state income tax and in many states, also a local income tax. Get with the program, Florida!

Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg

Same cut for everyone

Once again, our legislators are out of touch with reality. Why do they insist on making everything so complicated? Did it ever occur to anyone in the state capital to propose a percentage tax cut? Everyone gets the same cut. The only exception should be people who do not live in our state year-round.

Why should only the haves continue to hold on to what is theirs and the rest of us sacrifice?

Get it done and get it done fairly. We are the majority. We may not waste our money funding your outrageously expensive campaigns, but we do vote and pay taxes.

Susan Morrison, Clearwater

Tax cuts not for everyone May 18, story

Fairness not an issue

While I'm sure that the article is factual, this is an issue that also requires the injection of common sense. While alluded to in House Speaker Marco Rubio's comment "you want to focus on the people who are paying more, " the Times is doing a great disservice to their readers by not including any type of depth to this comment.

The issue with property taxes is not millage rates, it's the sharp increases in home values. There is a reason why "the poor" are not as likely to benefit from the plan.

The 1, 900-square-foot house I bought in 1999 as a first-time homeowner for $130, 000 was sold last year for $270, 000. It was the quintessential "starter home" on a narrow lot in a planned development in New Tampa. While the home's new, first-time buyers went in mortgaged to the hilt and their eyes wide open to the property tax revaluation, it is these people who still need the benefits of this legislation.

Let's worry less about the issue of who benefits in the interest of fairness and focus more on who should benefit.

Property taxes wouldn't even be an issue if counties spent our money responsibly. Tampa Bay counties over the past few years have realized windfall profits and yet virtually every public school is staffed with underpaid teachers in overcrowded classrooms. If they are not going to spend our money in a responsible way, they need to give it back to the people who have been affected the most in the past few years.

Darren Clauws, Tampa

A Trojan horse

The Rubio tax plan contains a monumental "Trojan horse" by eliminating the Save Our Homes program. The 3 percent restriction on the annual increase in the taxable values of a home opens the floodgates for property assessor abuses.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how counties will attempt to recoup the lost tax revenues by inflating the market value of homes. Any new bill must protect us from this obvious loophole in the proposed legislation.

Jim Haynes, Tampa

Cutting deep

On May 17, two letters caught my eye from citizens who truly understand the problem and what has caused it (Twofold tax problem and Make it fair). I then proceeded to the letter titled Stop spending, to once again hear that this problem is the fault of "out-of-control spending by local government."

As a mayor of a small beach community, I invite the writer of this letter to come to our city and take a look at our budget, or any other community here in our county. We face serious cutbacks, and perhaps even layoffs of trusted, hard-working members of our staff.

We have a duty to provide safety and service to our residents, but if we must make cuts like those our Legislature is suggesting, what comes first? Where does the writer think money to provide these things comes from?

We have held the same millage rate for seven years now, in spite of big revenue loses. We have given up many of the "niceties, " like our Sun, Sand, and Symphony Concert over Memorial Day. Thankfully, we have a Chamber of Commerce who has taken it over.

Many of the art and cultural things in St. Petersburg will lose their funding from the city. This will have the ultimate effect of losing important business who look at such things when deciding to relocate. This will affect not only the economy of our cities, but of the state as well.

Please stop blaming our communities for this disaster, and encourage your leaders in Tallahassee to stop using this feeble excuse. The true cause comes from the Save Our Homes cap and an unfair taxing system.

Mary H. Maloof, mayor, Treasure Island

Legalize gambling

State legislators have the answer before them to solve a large portion of the property tax and insurance problems. Legalize gambling.

Yes, we have all heard the scare tactics by the opposition. Their theory is that it will bring more crime and prostitution to the state. Would they be surprised to learn we already have crime and prostitution and always will? And that drug addiction spurs more crime than gambling?

There are those who fear addiction to gambling will hurt families. This opportunity exists now, for example, at the dog and horse tracks, casino cruises and the state lottery.

Millions of dollars leave Florida every month for Las Vegas, Biloxi or on cruise ships, etc., and they gladly accept Floridians' money, as well those of the additional tourists Florida should be getting. People will always gamble, if not publicly, then privately.

Del Rose, Spring Hill

Why Stanton matters

In response to St. Petersburg Times readers' complaints about publishing Susan Stanton's story on the front page:

The mere fact that a male city official was fired because of his decision to have a sex change merits the placing of the story. Also, Stanton's story calls attention to how our society reacts to and deals with an ever-changing world that affects people's individual lives now and with far-reaching consequences for the future. It deserves priority in newspaper reporting.

Bruny Hudson, Ruskin

Report card on same-sex ed May 21, story

'Sex' is not 'gender'

The article repeatedly used the terms "same-sex" and "same-gender" interchangeably. Sex and gender of a person do not necessarily agree. That should be quite apparent with all the publicity that Steve (Susan) Stanton has received as of late. His would be an extreme case of gender and sex not coinciding.

If you are going to categorize children in a classroom according to their sex, then you would need two sections. However, if you are going to categorize children according to their gender, it is quite possible that for a class of 30 students, you would need 30 sections. Gender, like most things in life, is not black and white, but a continuum.

Andrew Conte, St. Petersburg