In the mixed up of world of Florida politics, the Republican-controlled House Policy and Budget Council voted 19-12 along party lines for a property tax relief plan that paves the way for a potential $9.2 billion increase in state and local sales taxes and hurts businesses at the expense of homeowners, while Democrats opposed the bill for those same reasons. Only Rep. Don Brown, a Republican from Defuniak Springs, voted with Democrats.
The proposed constitutional amendment which raises the state sales tax from 6-cents to 7 cents and gives voters the option of voting in 1.5 cents more in a countywide referendum. Before the vote, several Democrats on the panel argued against the plan to swap property taxes for sales taxes that will result in a net drop in taxes of at least $6.7 billion and a commensurate cut in county and city budgets.
"I'm not going to vote for a bill that increases the sales tax by $9.2 billion and doesn't give broad-based tax relief,'' said Rep. Ron Saunders, a Key West Democrat.
Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, complained that the plan gives 1.5 percent of the wealthiest homestead property owners 13 percent of the relief, while commecial property owners, renters and owners of second homes get squeezed.
Republicans argued that the tax system is not about fairness and the plan provides the necessary relief needed to reinvigorate the economy and give homeowners help. Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Orlando, called it the "biggest tax relief package in the history of our state" that will result in 15 percent savings to owners of second homes and businesses while owners of primary homes could see their property taxes eliminated.
Said Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz: "Right now, this is a work in progress and what taxpayers want is a decisive action to give them relief now.''