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Jeb's economist warns of troubles with prop tax reform

Tony Villamil, the economic advisor to former President George H.W. Bush and his son, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, takes a fascinating jab today at the legislature's proposed property tax reform plan in an opinion piece written for Florida TaxWatch in which he warns of serious unintended consequences.

Villamil, a conservative economist based in Miami, warns that the cuts in "quality of life'' programs will bring a "high degree of uncertainty" to Florida's public revenues. He adds that the complexities "violate a principle of best practices of public finance, which is simplicity and transparency in the levy of taxes.''

He also criticizes the "cookie cutter approach'' to determining the cap on local tax revenues, which he warns will escalate the reliance on groups coming to Tallahassee to resolve their troubles, rather than turning to local governments which are closest to them. He notes that the one-size-fits all approach will especially hurt Miami-Dade, which has traditionally undercounted its resident population.

Villamil also blasts the plan for being unfair to purchasers of second homes and renters, because it gives the super-sized exemptions only to owners of primary homes -- a feature already in play, by the way, with the existing Save Our Homes structure.

The most surprising criticism of all, however, is that Villamil picks up the same theme originally proposed by Hank Fishkind in an economic analysis done for the Florida Association of Counties when the debate over property tax first started in February: that prices paid by local governments to produce goods and services is higher than accounted for by the rise in personal income. By tying the cap on revenues to the increase in personal income, the result, Villamil says, is that real cuts to local government will be much deeper than what occurs just with the drop in property tax collections.