Property tax wins big


Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 4:41 p.m.

Voters approved an historic property tax cut Tuesday, deepening the benefits for longtime residents by making permanent their tax advantage over businesses, first-time homebuyers and part-time residents.

Amendment 1’s passage, with well over the necessary 60 percent of votes, also marks a huge political victory for Gov. Charlie Crist, who campaigned in 2006 on the promise to increase the homestead exemption and allow residents to keep their accrued Save Our Homes tax break if they move.

‘‘I think what it means was that the people wanted a tax cut very, very badly,’’ Crist said in Miami. ‘‘They wanted it and now they got it.’’

In Alachua County, 23,934, or 50.48 percent of the voters, supported the amendment while 23,482 opposed it. It was a margin so small, however, that the result locally could change depending on absentees or early voting, which were not included in Tuesday night’s totals.

Opponents said Floridians will see little tax savings and dramatic cuts in law enforcement and education. But Rich Templin, a spokesman for the Florida AFL-CIO, said tight economic times meant voters welcomed any tax cut.

‘‘Even though it’s only a $20 (monthly) savings for the voters, they want that $20,’’ said Templin. ‘‘This really is going to destroy a lot of services for a lot of people. People are not going to believe it until they see it.’’

The popularity of any tax cut was almost certain to gain a majority of Floridians’ support.

But Crist’s popularity, rooted in his appeal to both parties, was the key in pushing Amendment 1 to the necessary 60 percent, lawmakers said.

‘‘This was not a partisan issue that the governor championed,’’ said Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors. ‘‘I think Charlie Crist is the best retail politician in this state. He put his political firepower behind this amendment.’’

‘‘Charlie Crist proves again that he truly is the people’s governor; this is a big win for Floridians and for Gov. Crist,’’ said Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

For residents, Amendment 1 increases the homestead exemption and allows them to keep accrued Save Our Homes tax breaks if they move.

Businesses and part-time residents will receive a new 10 percent cap on year-to-year assessment increases in the future, and businesses will get a new $25,000 exemption for equipment.

Economists from the Legislature, academia and think tanks all have warned that the new tax plan only deepens the shift of taxes to businesses, part-time residents and new homeowners. Longtime Floridians will now have a permanent tax cut they will keep regardless of where they move in the state.

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