Florida: Confused Yet?

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Florida's property tax reform debate may finally be nearing an end - and, then again, it may not. During a special session in June, the Legislature put a plan on the January 2008 ballot to allow homeowners to choose between their existing "Save Our Homes" property tax assessment caps and a so-called "super-exemption" of up to $195,000. That plan was then removed from the ballot by a Leon County court in September because it would have been too difficult for voters to understand. Then, last Monday, the last possible day to do so, the Legislature approved an alternative plan to increase the existing homestead exemption and to permit current residents to take their "Save Our Homes" assessment caps with them when they move, thus putting property tax reform back on the ballot. Yet, as the Miami Herald points out, the state's Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which itself has the power to put matters before the voters, could come up with another approach for the voters to consider next November. What's more, creating "portability" for "Save Our Homes" may well violate the U.S Constitution, as an analysis by Walter Hellerstein and others found back in February.

Given the particulars of the Legislature's latest plan, a different approach would certainly be warranted. As the St. Petersburg Times observes, the Legislature's latest plan "... takes what's wrong with the current property tax system and amplifies it. The unfair advantage long-time homeowners have over more recent home buyers would be extended. The shifting of the tax burden from homesteaded property to non-homesteaded property would be exacerbated. And the cost for making matters worse would be indefensible."

The Miami Herald offers its compiled coverage on the whole sorry saga here.

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