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Date of Issue: April 12, 2007

CART meeting: Much ado but nothing definite

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An estimated 125 concerned Island residents attended the April 4 meeting held by the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation for an update on what proposals are being discussed in the current legislative session in Tallahassee to effect tax reform throughout the state. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The estimated 125 people who attended the public forum in Holmes Beach April 4 conducted by the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation learned there are a lot of plans floating around the Florida Legislature to solve Florida’s tax problems.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, said CART president Don Schroder, "Everything you read in the newspapers is probably not going to happen." There are a lot of plans and ideas under discussion, he said, but legislators have yet to reach any common ground, let alone something for the voters.

CART and its sister organization - Homeowners Against Runaway Taxation - want a "long-term solution" without the unintended consequences that the Save Our Homes amendment to the state constitution perpetrated by shifting the tax burden from homestead property owners to business and non-homesteaded property owners.

Absolutely, said state Rep. Bill Galvano, who spoke to the meeting by telephone from his Tallahassee office. The problem, he observed, is getting legislators to agree on what changes are needed to the state’s taxation system.

"A lot of things are out there, and I’m not sure we are doing enough for non-homesteaded owners and business owners. But we can’t do nothing. We have to move forward."

Galvano said any compromise proposal reached by legislators would likely have to go before Florida voters in a statewide referendum.

He agreed with Anna Maria City Commissioner Dale Woodland, that "runaway spending" by state and local governments also has to be addressed. Any real tax reform needs to place a cap on ad valorem taxes and spending, Galvano indicated.

He doesn’t expect any compromise solution to be ready during the present legislative session, but believes it might take several special sessions to reach an agreement.

Suggested tax changes currently being discussed in the legislature include making the cap on homestead exemptions portable, exemptions for business taxes, limiting tax increases on non-homesteaded homes to 10 percent annually, and requiring property appraisers to assess businesses according to income, not as the "highest and best use" of the property.

Several ideas that apparently are no longer under consideration are increasing the state sales tax to 10 percent and eliminating ad valorem taxes, or returning ad valorem taxes to their 2001 levels.

At the least, said Galvano, "There’s a lot more debate left" on the issues.

"More debate" is probably the only thing legislators can agree upon at this point in discussing tax reform.