Not satisfied with slashing property taxes (and with it, services state-wide), the Florida legislature wants to put another tax decrease on the ballot this fall. But this one will make Amendment One look like chump change. The plan would, by 2011, wipe out the property taxes now levied throughout Florida to help fund public schools — about a quarter of a typical homeowner's tax bill. Considering that Florida has no income tax, and that the state receives the majority of its revenue from sales and property taxes, to cut a quarter of one of those revenue streams is a major blow to the state coffers, which are already pretty bare.
Florida business leaders, however, aren't wild about this plan.
Florida's business lobby has launched a campaign to torpedo the plan for additional property tax relief that the state's powerful tax commission plans to submit to voters in November....Mr. Bishop's pained metaphor aside, he's right. We're not going to stop needing police and fire protection simply because we don't have the money to pay for it, and teachers aren't going to start showing up to work just because they love their jobs. People have to eat and live, and those tax streams pay a lot of salaries among other things, even though they get paid less than state employees anywhere else.
"It's the biggest trick since Houdini, because you're going to pay for it one way or the other," said Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries of Florida, a large pro-business group that has been buttonholing members of the commission to ask them to rethink their support.
Proponents of the tax cut say it will help improve the housing market, which will then feed over into the rest of the economy. I say that's crap--the problem with the housing market in Florida has nothing to do with property taxes and everything to do with over-inflated housing prices. If you want people to buy houses, you either have to pay them enough so they can afford them, or the prices have to come down to where they can afford them. A tax cut on a $800,000 townhome isn't going to matter to a person making $70,000 a year--you could make it tax-free and that person isn't closing the deal.
Meanwhile, opponents of the tax deal are asking the only logical question--where's the money going to come from. So far, the proposed deal says it will make up the shortfall by increasing the sales tax by a penny. Great--a regressive tax that will hit the people who can't afford to live here even harder. And that only makes up about a third of the revenue lost to the property tax cuts. So where's the rest going to come from? No one seems to have an answer. It's like our tax commission is run by the underpants gnomes or something.
1. Cut TaxesIt makes one despondent at times. It's enough to make a person think that the legislature is trying to make Florida such a horrible place to live that people will leave in droves, after having their property foreclosed on, so it can be turned into a playground for the uber-wealthy. But that's crazy talk, right? Right?