January 06, 2007

Florida: More Editorial Fallout on Crist Property Tax Plan

The editorial fallout continues for new Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who signaled this week that he wants to double the state's property tax homestead exemption to $50,000. Here's what the Pensacola News Journal has to say about Crist's plan :
[Hiking the homestead exemption] will further distort a tax system already titled off level by the homestead exemption and the Save our Homes amendment that limits increases in assessed values -- used to compute property taxes -- to 3 percent a year on homesteads.Doubling the homestead exemption will continue the trend of pushing the property tax burden onto businesses, renters and owners of undeveloped property.
This is exactly right. Florida's tax system has a lot of problems, but the inadequacy of existing homeowner tax breaks is NOT among them. The existing tax breaks for homeowners are already giving big tax breaks to even the wealthiest homeowners, making them more expensive than they need to be. Simply doubling the existing tax breaks further shifts the cost of funding public services away from homeowners and toward, well, everyone else. But the Journal's board goes one (laudable) step further:
[W]hat Crist needs to do is settle the question of whether there is a better method than heavy dependence on the property tax... Can the property tax be eliminated and replaced with something else, such as a state income tax or an increase in the sales tax? Should it be capped in terms of dollars, not just millage rates, and supplemented with another tax? Should it be rolled back and capped? Should the burden be spread more evenly?Put it all on the table, and let's see what the alternatives are.
This is terrific stuff. Observers of Florida tax politics have learned not to expect courage from their elected officials on this issue; it's a sad commentary that the Journal's willingness to "put it all on the table" seems downright courageous rather than simply being sensible.


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