Florida Push for Property Tax Reform Gaining Momentum

September 18, 2006

As we’ve written before, booming property tax collections in recent years have given birth to property tax reform movements in many states, particularly in the state of Florida. Two news stories over the weekend highlight the vigorous property tax debate currently underway in the Sunshine State, which appears to be gaining political momentum.

Here’s the first, from the Pensacola News-Journal:

Property tax pressures demand new look at state’s tax structure Not so very long ago, Florida was considered something of a haven for people — especially retirees — fleeing high property taxes elsewhere in the nation.

Welcome to the future.

Anyone who hasn’t figured out that property taxes loom as the next big fight across Florida — not just the Pensacola Bay Area — hasn’t been paying attention.

But it is demanding attention.

Here and across Florida residents find themselves whipsawed by soaring property values and skyrocketing insurance premiums. Worse, surging construction costs caused by hurricane rebuilding from the tip of Florida to Louisiana mean homeowners can pay a lot more for less house than they could get just few years ago. Add on tougher building codes, and sticker shock is rampant.

People used to move to this area because of the low property taxes; today, people are talking about leaving because they are getting so high.

And the second, from the Orlando Sentinel:

Tax-cut demand gets tractionFor Mary Fidler and thousands of other frustrated taxpayers, the public hearings across Volusia County this week are far more than procedural steps to finalize government budgets.

The hearings are the last chance to persuade officials to cut taxes that have infuriated some and crushed others.

“I’ve done a lot of crying since the property taxes came out. What can I say?” said Fidler, a grandmother of six whose family has lived on farmland outside Port Orange for decades.

Her tax bill could nearly double to about $10,000.

Fidler is one of many frustrated by soaring property tax bills, the result of skyrocketing property values and rising government spending.

But fed-up taxpayers are rising up in record numbers, coordinating protests countywide to demand that elected officials slash their budgets and push back tax rates.

They came by the busload to a County Council budget hearing earlier this month. They’ll be out in full force this week, they said, because if tax bills double, triple and more, it will cripple the region.

It’s no surprise that support for property tax reform builds whenever home values are on the rise. Surveys consistently find that property taxes are among the most disliked of all types of taxes.

For example, here are the results from our own annual survey question about which state and local tax is “least fair”:

Q675. Of the following state and local taxes, which do you think is the worst tax — that is, the least fair?

2006

2005

(2,017)

(2,013)

39%

38%

Local property tax

20%

19%

State income tax

18%

18%

Sales tax

7%

7%

State corporate income tax

16%

17%

Not sure

Source: Tax Foundation

For more on state and local property taxes, see our “Property Tax” section. Also, keep an eye out for our forthcoming Special Report on growing property taxes around the nation.


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