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Tax swap poses tough math problem for Legislature

Amendment 5, the major constitutional ''tax swap'' on the November ballot that would replace school property taxes with other revenues, poses one of the biggest math problems the Florida Legislature will ever have to solve.

If the amendment passes, the numbers will be tough to work out, due to the Legislature's cloudy fiscal track record and some vague wording in the measure itself.

The amendment calls for the complete elimination of the state-set property tax for schools -- 25 percent of the average property-owner's tax bill. To replace the lost money, the amendment says, legislators would have to increase the sales tax by a penny, eliminate some sales-tax exemptions, levy new taxes or even cut the budget.

How much tax revenue will they have to replace? Maybe $9.3 billion. Maybe $11 billion. No one's quite sure. Though the amendment demands that the Legislature make up the lost education money, it's unclear how to figure the amount, according to state economists.

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