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Florida Governor Addresses Property Taxes in State of the State Speech

3 min readBy: Alicia Hansen

When Florida Governor Charlie Crist delivered his State of the State address earlier this week, many listeners were eager to hear his take on property taxes. As we have written before (here, here, and here), property taxes have long been a contentious issue in Florida. From the Miami Herald:

. . . Gov. Charlie Crist turned his 30-minute address into a laundry list of his initiatives, making scant mention of the state’s economic turmoil or solutions for getting the state out of its jam.

Instead, the governor flatly declared that Florida faces ”extraordinary economic times” and moved on.

His recipe for improving the economy: a call to legislators to stay the course “by keeping taxes low, by creating jobs and fueling an economy that ranks ahead of most nations of the world.”

. . .

The statement stood in stark contrast to the speech given hours before in the same chamber, the Florida House of Representatives, by House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami. In his impassioned address to legislators, Rubio dwelled on every economic indicator showing times in Florida are worsening.

Rubio began with a bleak assessment of how ”anxious” Floridians are. He then took veiled shots at the Senate and Crist for scuttling one of the House’s property-taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. plans last year, which he suggested would have improved the economy.

”And now, we are facing the consequences. Our real estate market is in complete collapse. Florida is second in the nation in foreclosures. Three of the top 20 cities for foreclosures are in Florida,” Rubio said. “Soon, our construction industry will have worked its way through its commercial construction backlog. With no new work in either the residential or commercial sector in the pipeline, unemployment will rise.”

In his speech, Crist acknowledged that property taxes remain a pressing concern and repeated his pledge that the Jan. 29 voter-approved Amendment 1 tax cut is “just the beginning.”

Tax Analysts’ State Tax Today said of the speech (subscription required):

In his State of the State address March 4, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) praised last year’s package of property taxA property tax is primarily levied on immovable property like land and buildings, as well as on tangible personal property that is movable, like vehicles and equipment. Property taxes are the single largest source of state and local revenue in the U.S. and help fund schools, roads, police, and other services. cuts but did not endorse passage of deeper cuts during the 60-day legislative session, which began the same day. Instead, he encouraged the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission to consider more property tax changes and put them before the voters.

Crist has suggested tax breaks for green business efforts and the entertainment industry, but a crashing economy has tempered his usual passion for deep property tax cuts. Last year, between Crist’s successful push for a voter-approved property tax plan and lawmakers’ cap on future growth, property taxes were cut by about $25 billion over the next five years.

Crist suggested that the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which meets every 20 years, should consider more changes this year.

“These property tax cuts are just the beginning. We can and should continue to fight for property tax relief and I encourage the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission,” said Crist. The commission has the power to place constitutional amendments directly on the ballot and has a May 8 deadline.

House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) deepened his differences with the governor by calling for lawmakers to revolutionize the tax system and criticizing last year’s tax cuts— the largest in state history—as not deep enough.

. . .

Rubio is pushing lawmakers to adopt a citizens initiative that would create a 1.35 percent tax of assessed value on all property. The measure will not make the 2008 ballot, and support in the Senate is highly unlikely.

Read the speech (PDF) or click here for a video.

Click here for Tax Foundation property tax studies and data.