February 25, 2007

Florida Property Tax Repeal: Editorial Reactions

In the wake of a proposal last week by the Florida State House of Representatives' Republican leadership last week to repeal all homeowner property taxes, the proposal continues to find a skeptical audience among state media outlets. The Jacksonville Sun's editorial board weighs in on Sunday's op-ed page, and they've got good questions for advocates of repeal:
But how would local governments absorb the lost revenue and how would their tax distributions be sorted out?
Would becoming the highest sales-tax state in the nation discourage tourists or drive business to border states or to the Internet?
What about the hit on the poor from a sales tax increase?
These are all legitimate and well-stated concerns. The most likely answers to these questions are "With difficulty," "Almost certainly," and "The poor will pay more."

The Sun has its own broad recommendations that generally focus more on goals than on strategies:

More fairness: The property tax benefits are tilted too far to those who have been in their homes the longest. Some longtime home-owners pay no property taxes at all.
More balance: Businesses and other nonhomesteaded property owners are getting rocked with higher taxes. Some type of reasonable cap is in order that protects them but allows for moderate growth in tax revenues.
Consideration for local governments: State and federal governments, meanwhile, are shifting costs to the local level. Most governments have room for belt-tightening, but beware of placing one-size-fits-all limitations on local government spending.
More moderation:
Officials must be careful not to make fixes that are worse than the problem itself. Officials should phase in changes so that adjustments can be made.
More information: Taxes are complicated. Floridians need as much analysis as possible to understand how any changes would affect them, businesses, local governments, schools and the state overall.

These broad goals are all right on. The question is, when will anyone with a voice in this debate start talking about the forgotten reform option-- enacting a personal income tax?


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