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Monday, March 17, 2008

Florida Property Tax Relief of 25 percent on the November ballot will force Daytona Beach to rein in its fiscal waste

Florida Property Tax Relief

TALLAHASSEE, FL - The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission voted to put a significant tax savings plan before Florida voters in November. By a 21-4 vote the independent panel decided to approve the proposal of a state constitutional amendment for an across-the-board property tax cut averaging 25 percent. The amendment would dwarf two other tax relief measures enacted over the past year by the Florida legislature. The previous efforts of the Legislature were widely considered to be ineffective and failed to address the underlying problem plaguing the State: irresponsible spending, widespread waste at local levels, and inequities in tax allocation.

The City of Daytona Beach in particular has been alleged to have participated in an unprecedented spending orgy the past few years with little state or taxpayer oversight. A recent state audit found multiple process violations, Daytona Beach Commissioner Rick Shiver, embroidered in controversy over the sale of his personal home to the City he represents for over twice its just valuequestionable ethics and lack of transparency in many expenditures.

The taxpayer rights group Stand Daytona has identified numerous instances of fiscal abuses, including the City's purchase of the private home of Daytona Beach City Commissioner, Richard Shiver, for over twice its just value and approved by his fellow Commissioners. More recently and the subject of taxpayer litigation is the City Commission's funding to the tune of $500,000 non-budgeted tax dollars for a wealthy campaign contributor's pet project in the arts while at the same time the City was faced with state-madated spending cuts.

If the measure passes as expected, some Florida property owners could realize savings of over 33% of what they were paying before. The bulk of the savings are a result of eliminating property taxes that the legislature requires school districts to levy in order to qualify for state aid. At the ballot, the proposal will need 60% of voters’ approval.

The state will recoup some of the expected eight billion dollars in taxpayer relief by hiking the sales tax by one cent. Critics of the plan complained that the expected revenues as a result of the sales tax hike might not be realized due to the severe recession we are currently suffering. The recession and financial market turmoil is already causing people to reduce spending. House Speaker and taxpayer rights supporter, Marco Rubio disagreed, saying that if people have more money in their pocket, as this plan will certainly allow, they will go to the stores to spend it. The specific language of the plan will still need to be worked out, but the basic intent should remain unmodified.

Last year, The Legislature had ordered local governments to roll back property taxes, but many avoided the cuts by taking advantage of a loophole that let them override the requirement through votes of more than a simple majority. Others passed new fees to make up at least some of the lost property taxes. In the end, the irresponsible spending continued at the local levels. The new plan will certainly help curtail those abuses.

Established by Florida voters in 1988, The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission was formed by constitutional amendment. Its mission was stated as:

The commission shall examine the state budgetary process, the revenue needs and expenditure processes of the state, the appropriateness of the tax structure of the state, and governmental productivity and efficiency...

During the Commission’s first phase of its review of state taxation and spending policies, it reached the conclusion that:

The public has lost confidence in the state’s ability to spend money wisely. The state must reform itself before it can ask more of its citizens.

The Florida Constitution (Art. XI, § 6 Fla. Const.) and Florida Statutes (Fla. Stat. § 286.036) empower the Commission to make recommendations to the Legislature and to put constitutional issues directly before the people.

Read more here.

Video News of the Tax Cut Proposal:

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