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Area legislators split on homestead plan
By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published June 15, 2007
TALLAHASSEE - West-central Florida lawmakers voted unanimously for the property tax rollback and cap, but they split along party lines on the superhomestead exemption as both pieces of a major tax cut package were approved by the Legislature on Thursday.
Local lawmakers also agreed unanimously to allow voters to consider the constitutional amendment early on Jan. 29, 2008 instead of Nov. 4.
Several Republican senators, including Victor Crist, Ronda Storms and Paula Dockery said they were not comfortable with the originally proposed superhomestead exemption, before lawmakers rewrote it to allow homesteaders to choose to keep their Save Our Homes 3 percent tax cap.
"I'm not one of the people who believe Save Our Homes is bad public policy. It's not even a guilty pleasure for me; I like Save Our Homes, " Storms, a Brandon Republican, said during the debate. "And I think a lot of people in the state of Florida do like Save Our Homes, because they don't trust politicians."
In fact, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said the last minute change to give homeowners a choice dealt with every complaint critics had leveled against the tax cut package.
"There's no question that every community has had people crying out, " Fasano said. "If you haven't heard that cry, ladies and gentlemen, you're not listening."
Tampa Republican Rep. Trey Traviesa said the session should be seen as a success.
"It's amazing how difficult it is to tame government and shrink government and give people some of their money back. But we got it done, we made history and people should be happy, Traviesa said."
Meanwhile, west-central Florida Democrats in both chambers said, overwhelmingly, that they were concerned about the cuts to schools, local governments and special districts.
"There's some good in there, but there's so much bad in there, " said Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg. "There's uncertainty, there's not enough relief for the people who need it most, and we need to do a better job of targeting the relief."
Rep. Rick Kriseman, a St. Petersburg Democrat, said he wished lawmakers had looked for more creative ways to fund local governments so that cutting taxes could have been done without cutting school funding. He suggested eliminating special interest tax exemptions.
"Other than sales tax, no other sources of alternative revenue were even looked at, " Kriseman said.
How they voted
How the west-central Florida delegation voted on the new homestead proposal: