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By JEFF WEBB
Published January 27, 2008
The elected brain trust in Tallahassee got it wrong in naming the latest proposed change to Florida's Constitution "Amendment 1." It should be called "Amendment Some" - as in some tax relief that will benefit some people, while placing an added burden on some others.
Oh, and some of it also may be unconstitutional.
The reasons to vote "no" on this proposal, which is political placation disguised as property tax reform, are many. But here are, well, some favorites:
- If passed, it will not "double" everyone's homestead exemption. Anyone who says it will is either misinformed or lying. It's more like a 60 percent additional exemption because school taxes, which make up 40 percent of the average property tax bill, are not included in Amendment 1.
- It allows a homeowner to transfer his Save Our Homes assessment cap of up to 3 percent a year from one primary residence to another, up to $500,000. That so-called portability clause may help the richest folks who plan to sell and buy again in the next few years, but it doesn't do much for the rest of us, who already take advantage of the 3 percent assessment cap and don't plan to move.
- Save Our Homes already forces nonhomesteaded property owners and businesses to bear a greater proportion of the tax burden, and this amendment will increase that obligation.
- Speaking of increased obligations, Amendment 1 will mean local governments will collect less in property taxes next year. Those governments will have to cut their spending to make up for that loss of revenue. That means they will either need to raise millage rates or cut services and employees. We all pay for those cuts, either in cash, quality of life, or in the unemployment and welfare lines.
- Amendment 1 also would limit the Legislature's ability to reform nonhomesteaded property taxes later on. Settling now for a flawed proposal could hinder a more substantial effort later.
- Finally, this proposal never should have been placed on the presidential primary ballot in the first place. Tuesday's voter turnout is going to be even lower than usual because of the Legislature's those guys again! decision to break national political party rules by moving up the date of the primary. The result is a disincentive for Florida's Democrats and Republicans to go to the polls.
Voters also will stay home in droves Tuesday because, sadly, many of them don't understand Amendment 1. But there is no shame in that lack of understanding. I'll bet most legislators didn't understand it when they voted to put it on the ballot.
Still other voters can't be bothered Tuesday because they're too busy working a second job to pay their insurance and food bills and put fuel in their cars so they can drive to a job where the pay doesn't come close to keeping pace with the increased costs of living.
For sure, Florida's tax system is a mess and it needs reform desperately. But the deceitful deal that is Amendment 1 doesn't do the job; it only perpetuates the inequities and gives people an undeserved sense of confidence in their lawmakers.
And make no mistake about it: That's exactly what the politicians who back Amendment 1 are seeking. They want to go on the campaign trail this year and crow about how they saved you money by cutting your taxes.
(Remember, these are the same people who still claim - amazingly, with straight faces - that they solved the homeowners insurance crisis.)
I say vote "no" on Tuesday on Amendment Some and deny the incumbents the opportunity to insult us in that way. Defeat it and keep these legislators on the hook to come up with a more meaningful plan when they convene their 2008 session in March. That still gives them plenty of time to get another referendum on the ballot for the November general election, which will generate a much, much higher voter turnout.
And if they don't, some of them will just have to go.
And that about somes it up.
Jeff Webb can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6123.
[Last modified January 26, 2008, 20:41:42]