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Senate committee follows House and gives ok to prop tax cap of 1.35 percent

Are legislators setting the stage for a trade with the House speaker? That's a logical conclusion following the approval Wednesday of the House Government Efficiency and Accountability Committee and the Senate Community Affairs committee of a proposed constitutional amendment to cap annual increases in property tax amendments at 1.35 percent.

By moving the measures through the committees, House Speaker Marco Rubio keeps alive his promise to pursue additional property tax cuts this year. But the chances of the measures going any further seems slim this year, a concession even Rubio made after addressing a crowd of mostly-Miami homeowners last month who travelled to Tallahassee demanding more property tax relief.

"We'll see what happens,'' said Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Miami Republican who is sponsoring the House measure to mirror a citizen petition drive that has been pushed by Rubio. Organizers say they have collected more than 200,000 of the 611,000 signatures needed to place it on the 2010 ballot. Only 75,000 of those have been verified by the secretary of state. The Senate version was introduced by Sen. Mike Haridopolos, the Republican chiarman of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, when the Senate sponsor, Mike Bennett of Bradenson couldn't be there.

Legislators need two-thirds vote to bring the proposal to the November ballot but Democrats aren't buying it. The Senate committee approved it on a 7-3 partisan vote. "We need to wait and see what impact the tax cuts we've already approved have,'' said Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller of Cooper City.