Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's the Tax Shift, Stupid

I said this before, property taxes are nothing more than a tax shift started by Jeb Bush.

Jeb Bush has refused to adjust taxes to properly deal with growth and inflation. This had more to do with electability than ideology. Bush saw his father not get re-elected by breaking his "no new taxes" pledge. Sure Jeb has a distain for teachers' unions and public education. He's not honest enough to admit it. He knows he would have never done a second term. His vouchers program is so unpopular that only 700 students paticipate. He believes in the FCAT so much that he refused to have private schools tested. Bush has also manipulated graduation rates (see here and here.)

Bush has done something far more cunning. He has forced local lawmakers to raise taxes. That way he can keep his no tax increases pledge.

It appears Florida Republicans have a hard time getting out of the tax shift without having to raise taxes somewhere else.

In his budget proposal sent to legislators last week, Crist did recommend a slight cut in school property taxes.

But House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber said shifting the school funding burden onto homeowners has resulted in a property tax crisis that is now proving difficult to repair.

''Florida has been conducting a bait and switch on homeowners for decades, and now we're just seeing it at a higher level,'' said Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat. ``This year, if all we do is lower property taxes and increase funding on homeowners, we're perpetuating the bait and switch all over again.''

School districts have warned since last summer, when Crist first advocated doubling the homestead exemption, that it could have devastating results on funding for education. Plus, they said it could run afoul of another promise in the Constitution that each child in Florida deserves the same level of education regardless of where he or she lives.

Republican legislative leaders have embraced the idea of asking voters to alter the state's property tax scheme but were cautious Tuesday when asked if they favor Crist's latest proposal.

Senate leaders, who are conducting town hall meetings across the state to gather public input on the issue, declined to comment on the evolution in Crist's plan.

''We're going to hash it out,'' said Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne.

Rep. Joe Pickens, the Palatka Republican in charge of the House committee that draws up Florida's school budget, said he remains concerned about the financial impact that doubling the homestead exemption would have on schools, cities and counties.

Florida's economy is based partly on new residents moving into the state. This creates development that brings in tax revenue from impact fees and property taxes. The problem is a increased population needs more roads, first responders, schools, medical services, etc. The money that pays for these services is taxes. Florida then attempts to bring more new residents into the state. The cycle is repeated.

While all this is going on - Republicans push tax cuts. More expense and less tax revenue means someone is going to get crunched. This is where homeowners come in. And they are getting very pissed. Thank God we're giving the Tampa Bay Lightning a $60 million tax rebate.


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