Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Horne: Vote for Tax Hike Was the Right Thing to Do

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Horne: Vote for Tax Hike Was the Right Thing to Do

Article excerpt

My, how the world has changed for Jim Horne.

Three years ago, he was an outsider running for office for the

first time. His world was black and white. His solutions to

Florida's problems simple, fitting neatly into campaign

handouts.

If elected, he vowed in one, he would continue his

predecessor's "tough, no nonsense, NO NEW TAXES approach to

government."

Today, Sen. Jim Horne, R-Orange Park, is chairman of a powerful

subcommittee responsible for funding education. His world is now

gray. His solutions to Florida's problems more complex,

themselves likely fodder for some future opponent's campaign

handouts.

Horne is no longer the guy tossing bombs into the legislative

works. He's defusing them. And he wonders if the one he's

holding is a time bomb.

Last week, Horne led the charge for an education funding bill

that could lead to a property tax increase to finance school

construction.

The conservative lawmaker not only said the "T-word," he voted

for it.

"If I get beat because of this, I get beat, because this is the

right thing to do," Horne said.

In this case, "the right thing" was to sponsor a bill that,

among other things, would enable local school boards to raise

property taxes by a half-mill to build much needed new schools.

A half mill would cost the owner of a $125,000 house with a

homestead exemption about $50 a year and would raise about $11

million a year in Duval County. That's enough to bond nearly

$130 million for school construction projects.

In arguing for its passage, Horne noted that Florida needs $10

billion worth of new educational facilities in the next five

years just to solve the problem of inadequate and overcrowded

schools.

"It would be easy to say, 'Tough, we're going to ignore it,' "

he said.

And it would be easy to tell Florida's 67 counties to somehow

find other ways to build facilities necessary to reduce class

size, end double sessions and keep up with the state's rapid

enrollment growth.

Horne, a certified public accountant, looked closely at the

alternatives before deciding "you can't get there on cost

containment alone. …

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