Polling Favors 'Super' Tax Exemption


Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune

By CATHERINE DOLINSKI

Published July 20, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - The majority of Florida voters supports a plan to super-size the homestead exemption - even though they don't know much about it.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents to a Quinnipiac University poll said they support the Constitutional amendment proposed by GOP lawmakers to cut property taxes by increasing the homestead exemption.

That's just shy of the 60 percent approval needed for passage, despite 67 percent of respondents saying that the amendment needs much more explanation.

"I'm very encouraged by that number," said Sen. Mike Fasano. R-New Port Richey, who supports the plan. "I've found that, once questions are asked about the proposal and people start understanding it better, they support it."

The poll of 1,106 voters, conducted July 12-16, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Lawmakers voted in June to place the amendment on the Jan. 29 presidential primary ballot. Opponents, who argue the revenue losses will slice into public services and education, have their work cut out. Only 21 percent of poll respondents said concern over local governmental cuts would move them to vote against the amendment. Another 40 percent said the concern was valid but would not persuade them to vote no. Twenty-eight percent said it was "not a valid concern."

"People think their taxes are too high," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "That's No. 1. No. 2, they like the idea of lowering them - and No. 3, the notion that government would suffer doesn't appear intrinsically [offensive] to that many people."

Government employees hope to change that, though Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the state teacher's union, acknowledged it won't be easy. The union, he said, is still researching the specific effects of the amendment.

"We're definitely up against the clock," he said, predicting voters will be distracted by the holidays at year's end, and by the presidential primary in January.

"Our window of opportunity to make an impression on voters is probably even before the Christmas shopping season begins."

Pudlow said his union's national parent organizations haven't decided how much money they are willing to spend to defeat the amendment. Meanwhile, Florida Realtors plan to raise $1 million to push the amendment through to passage.

With no tax relief in the amendment for businesses, they have been slow to support it. But Barney Bishop, president and chief executive officer of Associated Industries of Florida, said he is asking his board to join forces with the Realtors.

The new super-exemption, he said, will not only boost home sales, it will also boost sales of new floors, appliances and other home-related products and services.

While Realtors and AIF may bankroll the amendment's passage, Gov. Charlie Crist may provide the political muscle. Poll respondents gave him a whopping 73 percent job approval, despite near-equal dissatisfaction with the homeowner's insurance reforms he signed early this year.

Crist backs the property-tax amendment, though it remains unseen how actively he will campaign for it.

"Certainly you want to do everything you can while you have those high ratings," Bishop said, adding that if Crist does not get involved, Bishop worries about the coalescing forces of unions, firefighters and Democrats who will argue the amendment will cause harm.

Expect to hear plenty from government employees, said Doug Martin, state lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"We are going to have monetary resources to bear, but our real strength is our people," Martin said. "We have a whole structure of people in every community. And our people have the motivation, because they provide the very services that will be most devastated."

PROPERTY TAX CHANGES

There are two parts to the Legislature's property tax plan.

Part 1: Enacted By Legislature

Limits local governments to collecting no more in tax revenues than it collected this year.

Requires local governments to cut even more, 3 percent to 9 percent, based on a local government's tax performance from previous years.

Part 2: Goes To Voters Jan. 29

Create a "super" homestead exemption that would decrease a property's taxable value and, as a result, affect property taxes.

It would deduct 75 percent of the first $200,000 of a home's value and then deduct 15 percent of the next $300,000 of a home's value.

Example:

A $200,000 home would have $150,000 deducted. Taxable value: $50,000

A $400,000 home would have $165,000 deducted. Taxable value: $235,000

Allows homeowners to keep their Save Our Homes cap and $25,000 homestead exemption until they move or die.

If voters approve, local governments will have to make more budget cuts to make up for lower property tax revenue.


COMMENT:

Barney Bishop, president and chief executive officer of Associated Industries of Florida, said he is asking his board to join forces with the Realtors.

   

That statement alone is a wake-up call for owners to vote "NO"! 


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