Thursday, August 14, 2008

Florida PropertyTax Cut Amendment Challenged:

New Development in Florida Property Tax Reduction proposal

John Cooper, Leon County Circuit Judge will issue a ruling today and it might strike the proposed Amendment 5 to Florida Constitution, from the November ballot.

The main complaint raised by several business groups is that the amendment’s title and summary on the ballot will be highly misleading.

The contentious tax plan which would eliminate the school part of Florida property taxes went to the courtroom yesterday. No matter what Judge Cooper will decide, everybody is sure that there will be an appeal.

The $ 8 billion cut would reduce property taxes in about 25 percent, including non-residents and investor owners. To compensate the public school financing, Florida legislators should increase by 1 percent the state’s Sales Tax. But that could only partially cover the gap and other creative new tax sources would have to be implemented.

Judge Cooper openly objected on the ballot summary which states that the school system would be “guaranteed an equivalent hold harmless amount” of state funding to compensate for the loss of property taxes. The proposed amendment specifically requires the Legislature to exactly replace the lost revenue during 2010, without mentioning any time thereafter. Cooper qualified this as a “misrepresentation through omission”

The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, responsible for the proposal, argued through their attorney Mark Herron, that the amendment summary never claims that the replacement funding is permanent, and that the funding after 2010 will be up to the “political will of the Legislature”.

Judge Cooper basically objected to the confusion thrown upon voters by a ballot that seems to resolve the matter, but actually does it for only one year. The summary fails to provide voters with accurate information to make an intelligent decision. Strangely enough the person who designed the tax plan, Mr. John McKay, once a Florida Senate president, contended that voters are “pretty darn intelligent” and that all complementary information would be learned during the campaign’s debates. In all cases, he claimed that a ballot summary doesn’t necessarily have to include the implication of an amendment.

However, Judge Cooper dissented: I don't know if I'm the average voter, but it took me three hours to understand it. He argued that voters could be baffled after reading the summary.

The opponents of the Tax Reform proposal include business groups concerned about the extension of sales taxes to many services, retailers, school teachers, school drivers, and a variety of professional, non-profit and educational associations.

In favor of the proposal is Governor Charlie Crist, the National Association of Realtors who believe that the property tax reduction is the shot-in-the-arm needed for a rebound of Florida real estate market.

Post a Comment