Fla. Supreme Court knocks tax cap from 2010 ballot


Published: Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 5:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 5:17 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida Supreme Court has knocked a proposal for a property tax cap off the 2010 ballot.

The proposal is a citizen initiative that would cap property taxes at 1.35 percent of the highest taxable value of a home, business or other real estate, although voters could approve exceptions.

Petition sponsors Cut Property Taxes Now said tax cuts ordered by law last year and through another state constitutional amendment passed in January 2008 don't go far enough.

The justices could only determine if the proposal covered a single subject and had a clear and accurate title and ballot summary.

In an opinion posted Friday, five justices said the proposal was exempt from the single-subject requirement, but its ballot summary was misleading.

The initiative was exempt from the single-subject requirement because it directly limits the power of government to raise revenue, the opinion said.

However, according to the opinion, the initiative's ballot summary was misleading because it failed to point out that any property taxes approved by voters cannot extend for longer than two years. The majority also found that the summary was inconsistent with the language of the amendment.

Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston disagreed that the ballot summary was misleading.

In the dissenting opinion, Canady noted that the ballot summary is limited to 75 words.

"It is the very nature of a summary that it will not include all of the details of what is being summarized. The details identified by the majority are the very type of details that a summary cannot reasonably be expected to set forth," Canady wrote.

The majority also faulted the initiative for not informing voters about how it might affect an existing provision in the state Constitution.

Canady said "any reasonably informed voter" would understand that the proposed tax cap would change existing tax provisions.

"We should not require that a ballot summary state the obvious," he wrote.

A financial impact statement, also reviewed by the court, said the proposal would cost local governments at least $6 billion a year.

The lawyer representing the Cut Property Taxes Now group, Daniel Woodring, did not return a phone message or e-mail sent Saturday.

The attorney representing the initiative's opponents the Florida League of Cities, Florida School Boards Association and Florida Association of Counties also did not return a phone message or e-mail on Saturday.

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