Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Legislators Have No Problem Spending Increased Revenue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Legislators Have No Problem Spending Increased Revenue

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage

It's a safe bet that the Legislature won't ruin the ability of local governments to pay for essential services this week.

Why?

Legislators aren't meeting because of Passover and Easter.

But when they return to Tallahassee next week, we will re-enter the sausage making stage of property tax reform.

The end result may be OK, fingers crossed, but getting there won't be pretty.

Republicans in the House, led by their politically ambitious speaker, Marco Rubio, are intent on punishing local governments, which they believe have been spending wildly because they are flush with cash from the boom in property values.

Rubio wants local governments to cut spending, which local governments say they can't do to the extent Rubio wants without cutting things like police and fire services.

Interestingly, The Miami Herald pointed out in a news story published Monday that the state's coffers have also benefited greatly from the increase in property values.

The Herald said money the state collects from documentary stamp fees grew 266 percent to $4 billion from 2001 to 2006.

Why don't House Republicans practice what they preach and cut the documentary stamp rate instead of slurping up the bonanza?

"The money, quite frankly," Rubio told the Herald, "was needed to balance the budget."

Excuse me, but isn't that the same thing local governments are trying to tell legislators?

After completing the first half of the legislative session, which is set to end May 4, property tax reform ideas are still all over the board.

One plan by House Republicans would roll back ad valorem revenues to 2004 levels, then cap them going forward using a formula based on the rate of inflation and population growth.

The Mayor's Office estimates that plan would create a $38 million hole in Jacksonville's budget.

An earlier proposal by Gov. Charlie Crist to double the homestead exemption to $50,000 would have taken a $47 million bite out of Jacksonville's ad valorem revenues this year if it had been in effect. …

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