Last month, Florida lawmakers passed a two-part property tax reform plan, including an immediate cut in local property taxes as well as a January 2008 referendum in which Florida voters will be asked to pass judgment on a new, optional homestead exemption that homeowners could choose in place of an existing cap on home value growth. In response to this legislation, Mayor Eric Hersh of the City of Weston filed suit last week challenging the constitutionality of the property tax legislation, calling it "misleading to the public" and "not in the best interest of all Floridians." Hersh contends that the recently implemented law ordering localities to roll back tax collection this year violates a constitutional amendment granting local government the authority to collect property taxes up to 10 mills.
He is also critical of the proposed amendment referendum, claiming it misinforms voters that all Florida homestead property owners would get a $50,000 exemption (those who choose to retain their Save Our Homes exemptions will not). He further argues that it should not even be on the special ballot in January 2008, but requires a general election vote in November. Hersh's criticism demonstrates the difficulty and foolhardiness of trying to legislate tax policy through the ballot box.