"Floridians like the existing law that protects homeowners from steep property tax hikes and aren't eager to give breaks to the businesses and second-home owners who have been socked the hardest by property tax increases, a new poll says."
As state legislators prepare for a special session aimed at overhauling Florida's property tax system and cutting tax bills, the Zogby International poll conducted last week for The Palm Beach Post and other news organizations suggests that lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist will have to work to persuade voters to approve sweeping changes."Tax reforms faces snags".
"This is not Howard Jarvis-Proposition 13 California," said pollster John Zogby, referring to that state's landmark 1978 property-tax revolt and its populist leader. "This is a completely different state, a completely different political culture. ... This is not going to be an easy sell."
In the poll of 801 likely Florida voters, 64 percent said they have saved money under the Save Our Homes law, which limits annual appraisal increases to 3 percent or less for a taxpayer's primary residence.
"Crist's soaring approval ratings were knocked down a notch when Floridians recently rated him on the lone issue of property taxes. ... House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt drew only about 20 percent approval ratings from people surveyed about how they have handled the issue. About 42 percent of people were unsure." "Absent property tax relief, Crist's rating takes a hit" For more: "Browse complete poll results".
"Giddy" Fla Dems
"The Florida Democratic Party raised a record-setting $500,000 at its annual Jefferson Jackson dinner at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood."
President Bush's approval ratings have sunk to an all-time low of 32 percent, giving Democrats hope that next year will be their year."Florida Democrats all giddy about '08 vote". See also "U.S. voters are tired of Iraq war, Pelosi tells Florida Democrats" and "Florida Democrats raise 500K".
Florida is poised to play a decisive role in choosing the presidential nominees under a new law that pushed up the primary to Jan. 29. Although the date defies national party rules and could lead to sanctions at the national convention, there is a consensus among Democratic leaders to rally around the date.
"A bill on Gov. Charlie Crist's desk could put some toll roads in the hands of private investors, speed up delayed projects with an injection of private money and prompt a new wave of highway construction. It also could spur more sprawling developments and threaten environmentally sensitive lands in the name of relieving traffic congestion, some conservationists say. But for commuters, the first worry may come from the price they may have to pay for privately operated toll roads. Already, a foreign company wants to build a short toll road in Tampa and eventually charge $2.75 for a three-mile trip." "State considers putting toll roads in private hands".
Are we about to see another wave of Rubio worship in the MSM? "On special session stage, he'll star".
Jerks at The St. Pete Times
A St. Pete Times "journalist" named Aaron Sharackmon assisted by "staff writers" Will Van Sant and Mike Donila give us this piece of right wing garbage this morning: "Wondering where all those skyrocketing property taxes have gone? One major drain: the tony retirement pensions of the state's police and firefighters." "Pensions take toll on tax coffers".
The so-called "writer's" complaint is that defined benefit plans enjoyed by greedy firefighters and selfish law enforcement officers - and which used to be the norm for U.S. workers (who actually had the gall to retire with a degree of comfort) - are superior to the cheap defined contribution plans (most commonly 401(k) plans) foisted on workers (including journalists) in recent decades. Alleged journalist Sharackmon - parroting Chamber of Commerce and League of Cities propaganda - whines that "A police officer's retirement plan will make you cringe at your foundering 401(k)."
"Rational Tax Structure" "Heresy"
"Florida continues to treat the personal income tax as heresy, able to poison the political career of anyone suggesting it."
Since voters wrote a ban on such a practice into the state Constitution in 1924, that idea hasn't had serious consideration - despite the fact that it could lower the overall tax bill of low- to middle-income taxpayers."State Income Tax: Why It Won't Happen In Florida".
Florida is one of just seven states without an income tax. To many economists, it is a valid strategy to balance a state's revenue collections - another leg of the solid footstool representing the blend of property tax, sales tax and income tax.
"It's really the most important foundation and component of a rational tax structure, and we're lacking it completely," said Bruce Nissen, director of research at the Center for Labor Research and Studies at Florida International University.
Don't expect that situation to change. Although Gov. Charlie Crist has said he hasn't "poured water" on any proposals, and House Speaker Marco Rubio said any and all ideas are on the table, the income tax never made it to the special session menu.
Early Primary Problems
"With the nation's most powerful Democrat in town for a visit Saturday, Florida Democrats appeared headed for a confrontation with the national Democratic Party over the state's presidential primary date. The alternative to a fight over the date is an option some Florida Democrats consider simply too awful to consider: holding an election in which people's votes wouldn't be counted, something many of them accused Republicans of doing in 2000." "Dems Air Fears About Primary". See also "Fla Dems leaning away from presidential caucus" and "Dems sweat over two primary plans".
"Cloak and Dagger"
"The Florida Legislature convenes in special session Tuesday determined to cut property taxes but unsure how sharp cuts will affect a state straining to provide basic services to a growing population. A small group of lawmakers have been meeting behind closed doors, keeping secret the formula they have in mind. Some details were released late Friday, giving local governments very little time to respond to the proposals." "Galloping Into Fiscal Quicksand Under A Banner Of Tax Reform".
"The warm bipartisan glow that enveloped the Legislature earlier this year has cooled. On the eve of this week's do-or-die special session to overhaul property taxes, House Democrats are backed into a corner and frozen out of major decisions." "Legislators move forward on billion-dollar tax cut". See also "Hopes rise for deal on taxes during special legislative session".
"Florida doesn't need a lopsided tax system that hurts the resale real-estate market."
But that lopsided system benefits enough people that changing it will require the best marketing job this swampland-hustling state has seen. Reality hit last week when the Legislature gave up the idea of a special election in September - way too soon - in favor of having the vote with the presidential primary in late January."Tax flyboys have to get past voters". Mike Thomas: "Brilliant plan on tax cuts -- baffle everyone".
Even that will be a tight deadline. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, R-Orlando, had said that without better numbers there might be no reason to have a special session. Voters may not love what they have, but they won't switch to something they don't understand. And you got to get past them.
"With the Senate immigration plan he and President Bush championed on life support, Florida Sen. and national Republican party chair Mel Martinez criticized two leading GOP presidential candidates for criticizing the plan without offering alternatives. Martinez says Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are "falling short" on the issue." "Martinez criticizes Giuliani and Romney".
"Governments turn to the sun, water and other natural elements for energy." "Clean path to power".
Rise of the Country Clubbers?
"Results of last week's special election for a state Senate seat may be a sign that the once-monolithic Florida Republican Party is beginning to crack. Business-backed Rep. Charlie Dean of Inverness narrowly defeated Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, a darling of both the National Rifle Association and Christian right, in the Republican primary for a Senate seat vacated by new Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano." "Senate race may reflect a splinter in the state's GOP".
What South Floridians Want
"South Floridians are fed up with high living costs and taxes, but a new poll raises the question: How badly do they need and want tax cuts?"
The sense of instability has led half of South Floridians -- compared with 37 percent statewide -- to recently consider moving elsewhere, according to a Zogby International poll, conducted for The Miami Herald and WFOR-CBS 4 in association with The Palm Beach Post and WPEC-CBS 12."S. Floridians uneasy over living costs". See also "Out of Miami: Floridians flow to new homes".
The new poll of 801 likely Florida voters will give some ammunition to state lawmakers in the 11-day session to reform property taxes. Starting Tuesday, they'll consider tax-rate rollbacks, caps and exemptions worth an estimated $31.6 billion over five years to local governments.
But voters, who would have to approve at least half of the cuts in January, also have nuanced views on property taxes. Many voters don't appear to be in the state of crisis suggested by state legislators and Gov. Charlie Crist. Also, voters aren't clear on how much sky-high housing costs price them out of the market or if the quirks of the tax code imprison them in their own homes.
The expansion of taxable gambling was the most popular choice among voters who were asked how they would prefer to offset the costs of tax cuts. Next, voters said they'd like to increase property-tax exemptions. Lastly, they'd prefer to offset cuts by swapping homeowner taxes for a sales-tax increase. Crist and the anti-gambling GOP Legislature won't countenance gambling, rejected the sales-tax swap this spring, and settled on a plan for rollbacks, caps and the super-sizing of homestead exemptions.
Floridians by a 54 percent to 39 percent margin said they would oppose cutting taxes if they ''knew it meant reducing local-government services.'' But by a 52-43 spread, they don't believe such reductions would happen -- despite the claims of city and county governments, many of which taxed and spent heavily in the now-ended real-estate boom.
"A priest tries to keep an Episcopal parish on track amid national uproar." "Steering a path around crisis".
"At a time when the Florida Legislature is all over local governments for perceived lavish spending, offering severance to senior and executive managers, sometimes after just one year of service, gives the appearance of casual use of taxpayers' money." "Sealed with a check".
Tort Reform Scam
"Four years ago, after three special sessions, the Legislature capped 'pain and suffering' awards by juries in malpractice cases. The caps weren't as low as doctors wanted, but there had been no caps before. As with property insurance, the forecast was that rates would drop significantly. But doctors still complain. The talk is that Palm Beach County lost 300 physicians this year because of insurance costs. Sen. Peaden's bill would have kept insurers from basing rates on years before the caps took effect. It would have required malpractice carriers to decrease their rates by 25 percent less than they were on Oct. 1, 2004. And the bill went nowhere. 'I have no idea,' said Sen. Peaden, who's a doctor himself, 'why anyone would have wanted to be obstructionist on this bill.'" "The other insurance crisis".
"We don't know if it was high-profile support for the immigration reform bill or lingering memories of his pushing for Terri Schiavo intervention, but Martinez has some work to do over the next couple years. We wonder which Democrats will be watching closest. Former gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis? Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink? Or U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Kendrick Meek, Robert Wexler or Allan Boyd? Does Senate candidate Pam Iorio have a ring to it?" "The Buzz: Martinez's national role isn't helping in Florida".
"After having lost at the ballot box in 2004, doctors and hospitals are asking the Florida Supreme Court to play voters for fools. The notion that the constitutional amendment was intended to disclose records only of doctors' future medical mistakes is deserving of little more than a legal guffaw." "Give public the access it demanded".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "It doesn't take a soothsayer to divine that utilities are going to have a hard time, at least for the next four or eight years, winning the state's blessing to build new coal plants to keep up with Florida's growing demand for electricity. But state officials will need to be open to other options -- including nuclear power." "Changing course".
"A bipartisan push by former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and former U.S. Rep. Lou Frey to put new emphasis on civics in our state is an effort to be lauded and supported. The level of ignorance of Floridians about the most basic aspects of our democracy is startling. A 2005 Florida Bar poll found that more than 40 percent of the state's residents could not name the three branches of government. No doubt, a glaring gap exists in our education system." "Civics lesson: Fund civics".