Look before we leap

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 1:14 a.m.
Floridians should be wary of a jump to a drastically different system of taxation. Proposals by some members of the Florida Legislature to abolish the ad valorem tax on homestead property and replace it with a considerably higher sales tax raise a number of questions.
First, would the proposed tax change be revenue-neutral? Some current estimates are that the change would produce $800 million to $900 million less revenue for cities and counties. Are citizens willing to give up significant levels of local government services in order to fund a tax change?
Second, would the tax be fair to all citizens? While ordinary, middle-class Floridians who own their own homes would be relieved of some of the tax burden, wealthy residents in Palm Beach and other high-value areas would save much higher amounts. Those who buy new cars, TVs, computers, clothes and other consumer items would pay for these savings through the higher sales tax.
A third issue is concentration of power. Property taxes are determined, collected and spent at the local level. The sales tax is collected locally, but is then sent to the state. Who would determine the amount that would be remanded to the cities and counties, and by what method? No matter what method was devised, the power would be in Tallahassee.
I believe we should go slowly and study carefully any proposed changes to the local property tax system. Unintended consequences will occur.

Hal Smith,


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