May 23, 2007
Dear Senator Mike Haridopolos and Representative Dean Cannon:
While I appreciate that there has been movement toward tax relief, I remain concerned that we will not satisfactorily address the many complexities of this issue in sufficient time to properly address them in the upcoming Special Session. At this juncture, all we have is a very vague agreement that "super-exemptions" for homestead property is the preferred approach. While my caucus is obviously in agreement with this approach, the property tax crisis has numerous interlocking pieces, and if we are to address it both meaningfully and responsibly we need to do more than generally agree on only one aspect of its many faces.
I would recommend, therefore, that the agenda for our June 4 meeting have the goal of producing a specific and comprehensive framework that addresses a greater range of issues implicated by this task. I think it equally important that we give the many stakeholders – especially property owners and homeowners, but also local government officials – the chance to comment and critique our direction in the weeks preceding the special session. Further, our committee should review the budgets of a good sample of affected taxing entities to determine more precisely how the proposal would impact citizens.
Finally, we need to begin to apprehend the costs and consequences of each of these issues as they obviously interrelate. For instance, it makes little sense to discuss how much homestead tax relief we want to deliver without considering what we intend to deliver to Florida's business community and to renters. Or if we "grandfather" in Save Our Homes, what kind of assessment cap, or revenue limiter, is available to protect property owners from future excessive increases. Clearly, we can't solve one face of this Rubik's cube and then worry about resolving the remaining sides.
Consistent with this suggestion, what follows is a list of the issues that we believe need to be addressed at our June 4 meeting. I would add that attached is the House Democratic tax relief and reform package which attempted to address all of these issues in a fairly detailed way.
Issues that Need to Be Addressed:
I. Method and amount of Homestead Property Tax Relief
II. Method and amount of Non-Homestead, Residential Property Tax Relief, Including Renters
III. Method and amount of Commercial Property Tax Relief
IV. State & Local Government Revenue Controls
V. Save Our Homes Limitations
VII. Assessment Limitation on Real Property
VIII. Whether to include exemptions or mitigation for Fiscally Constrained Counties and Cities, Special Taxing Districts, Education Funds
hope is that at the conclusion of our next meeting, we will have sufficiently
addressed these topics and produced a specific framework that will provide a
basis through which to receive input and information. I would repeat my request that we seek an
impact conference from the Revenue Estimating Conference on some of these
proposals. Furthermore, I believe we should also request that Florida TaxWatch
conduct an econometric model study of final proposals. The model, which would be
prepared in collaboration with the Center for Economic Forecasting and
I commend you for your efforts. I do believe, however, that this is not one of those issues that is best resolved in private, or at the rushed end of a Special Session. Ultimately, if we do not craft a proposal that is structurally sound and can easily muster 60% approval on election day, we will have done an incredible disservice to our citizens who will be without tax relief for yet another year.
Thank you for your service.
Cc: Honorable Charlie Crist, Governor
Honorable Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer
Honorable Charles Bronson, Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Honorable Bill McCollum, Attorney General
Honorable Ken Pruitt, Senate President
Honorable Marco Rubio, Speaker of the House
Honorable Daniel Webster, Senate Majority Leader
Honorable Steve Geller, Senate Democratic Leader