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Haridopolos trades tricks with tax panel; Biz lobby wants revisions

Sen. Mike Haridopolos reversed the tables on the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission this week, sending them a letter strongly urging them to "give their specific recommendations on how we offset the revenue lost'' by their proposal to swap $9.6 billion in property taxes for a penny increase in the sales tax and other sales tax options.

The commission deftly avoided that task by leaving the job to the Legislature, thereby avoiding an election-year debate over whose ox will be the next to be gored.

Haridopolos, a non-voting member of the commission, calls their bluff and asks in his letter: How about putting into writing "your submission'' to "allow Florida voters to make an informed decision on the amendment."

Translation: He wants to help opponents mount the campaign. Haridopolos is convinced that if voters are honestly told that the only way to replace the lost property taxes on schools is to impose $3 to $5 billion in taxes on services, from the $24 billion pool of services that are now untaxed, they will be better served. "No bait and switch here,'' he told the Herald. "Tell voters it's a 2.7 or 2.8-cent sales tax increase...or $5 billion in services tax to get my school tax cut.'' Download 3.26.08 Ltr from Sen Haridopolis.pdf

Meanwhile, the business lobby is hoping the commission's Style and Drafting Committee makes some hefty word changes to the proposal when it meets today. Their goal is to provoke a two-thirds vote of the commission to get the new wording passed, and that in turn could open the door to amendments to it. They have abandoned hope of getting the measure repealed, several business lobbyists told the Herald, but they're now hoping to get it revised. Their pitch: phase out the repeal of the required local effort and phase-in the addition of the replacement money. Read more here.

Commission Chairman Allan Bense is no fan of commissioners changing their votes, though. ''I personally think all of us are morally bound to maintain the first vote we made -- to respect the sponsor of that vote,'' he told us. Commissioners had 45 days to study and review the proposal, he added: ``If a member had significant problems with it, I suspect we would have had it aired at the meeting.''

Some commissioners say they did know what they were talking about when they approved the plan, even though the economists gave them dueling opinions.