Florida's Economy Is Strong, Bush Says; but the Governor, Who Has Served Two Terms in Office, Acknowledged Rising Property Tax and Insurance Rates

Article excerpt

Byline: ALISON TRINIDAD

Rising property tax and insurance rates for Floridians are the big two issues facing state leaders next term, outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday.

The two-term Republican, who was the featured speaker of a Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday, lauded the health of the state's economy and emphasized the importance of diversifying economic interests, improving schools and maintaining a business-friendly environment.

But costs are increasing, and the government's role is to find ways to keep those costs in check while helping increase income levels in the state, Bush told some 800 audience members.

"We're becoming a higher-cost state," Bush added during a media session after the speech. "Some modification of what we have now has to be done. ... I think we can do this without breaking the banks of local government."

After several disastrous hurricanes, millions of Florida home and business owners have had difficulty finding affordable property insurance as some insurers have quit writing certain policies. Meanwhile, increasing property values are spurring higher tax bills for some, especially business owners and new homeowners. In June, Bush created two committees to study insurance and property tax reform. The insurance committee is to issue a final report by February 2007, while the property tax committee has until December 2007 to make its final recommendations. Bush also has wanted to convene a special session of the Legislature to discuss the insurance issue, but it is likely that would occur after the election next month, if at all. …