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House won't do gov's prop tax cut but will ask voters to do it

A move to give all Florida property owners a deeper property tax cut continued to gather steam in the Florida House Monday as a committee voted to put the measure on the ballot as early as 2012.

The bill, approved by the House Community & Military Affairs Subcommittee, would give commercial property owners and those with investment homes in Florida, a tax break that would match the one residential property owners now have under the Save Our Homes provisions of the state constitution.

If approved by voters, the maximum increase in the assessed value of commercial and non-homestead property would go from 10 to 3 percent. First-time home buyers would get a one-time $200,000 tax credit and all other homeowners would not see their taxes rise unless their property values increased.

The proposal, in effect, would give voters the option of enacting the deep property tax cuts sought by Gov. Rick Scott, who this year called for a $1.4 billion reduction in property taxes. Legislators have said they are unlikely to agree to it because it would require deeper cuts than they are prepared to make in the face of a $3.8 billion budget deficit.

But if voters approve the measure, economists predict the change will result in $231 million in revenue losses to cities and counties in the first year and as much as $1.2 billion in three years.

"We can't handle that,'' said Davin Suggs, lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities. He said that rather than benefit from an upturn in the economy, the proposed amendment would hurt cities and counties because they couldn’t capture any of the growth in property values.

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