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Conservation tax breaks yes; sunset taxing districts no

The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission has voted on two of the 9 proposed constitutional amendments this morning and killed one and approved another.

The winner: a proposal to create a new taxing class known as conservation to give land owners who want to protect their land from development to receive the same tax breaks as agricultural land. Opponents said the measure, by Commissioner Brian Yablonski, vice president for public affairs at St. Joe Company, would benefit big land owners like St. Joe Company.

Commissioner Sandy D'Alemberte warned that the same abuses of the agricultural land exemptions could emerge with this in which after holding land as agricultural "they overnight take the development and change its use.'' D'Alemberte voted against it.

Propopnents said it was needed at a time when the state didn't have money to preserve land from development. "This is a way for Florida to work with landownhers to accomplish the same goal without having to buy the property,'' said Commissioner Randy Miller. Download yablonski_conservation_amendment.pdf

The loser: a plan by Commissioner Nancy Riley to require any future independent taxing district created to have a 11-year life unless voters re-authorize it. Riley, a realtor, said it was needed to prevent government from establishing special taxing districts to get around tax caps imposed by the legislature and any future tax restrictions approved by voters.

Opponents warned it would hamstring local communities and make it impossible for them to obtain long-term financing for things like airports, children's health programs and community development. Vivian Alarcon of the Children's Services Council said the 7 independent taxing districts that provide health services, education and child care to children in their earliest years couldn't function if they "had to go into campaign mode.''

The measure failed 11-14. Download riley_taxing_districts_amendment.pdf