Florida Property Tax Cut Up to Voters?

With a new proposed amendment lawmakers might vote to put on the 2012 ballot, you could be paying a whole lot less in property taxes. It would give folks who live in their homes an additional exemption.

So, the owner of a $200,000 house would get about a $500 break.

Cragin Mosteller with the Florida Association of Counties says any tax break is bound to hurt local governments, but at least this one wouldn't cut taxes for owners of businesses and vacation homes like a plan on the table now. Privately, insiders say that one would go away if the new plan is passed.

"You can't continue to pile one change on after another that provides benefits to snowbirds and out-of-towners at the expense of the folks that live here year-round," Mosteller said. "We have to get with a system and stay with a system that benefits Florida's residents."

At first blush, handing a tax break to people who actually live in their homes looks like a pretty good idea and may be less painful for local governments, but in the end it does nothing to help businesses and investors and by extension Florida's overall economy.

After all, if companies have certainty their property taxes won't be skyrocketing, they may be inclined to open new locations and hire new workers, and realtor Penny Herman says she'd gladly sacrifice a tax break for homeowners in favor of one that would help her commercial clients.

"A lot of people who are buying right now are also investors, and they're turning those properties into rental properties, and we have more demand for renters right now because people aren't buying. So, now you're shifting the burden onto our investors."

Then again, if you're a homeowner and you've got more money in your pocket, you may be inclined to spend it, giving Florida's economy a critical boost.

It's a debate that's bound to play out when lawmakers return to the capitol for their annual session in January.

At least 60 percent voter approval is needed for any amendment to pass. The last majority property tax cut passed in 2007.

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