Speaker Sure of Support for Ending Property Taxes; While His Aide Says the Plan Is Well Liked, Local Officials Aren't So Sure
Jones, Walter C., The Florida Times Union
Byline: WALTER C. JONES
ATLANTA - The speaker of the state House of Representatives feels confident he's reading the public mood better than his opponents when it comes to his proposal to eliminate property taxes.
Speaker Glenn Richardson is making the civic-club circuit around the state talking up his plan. It would extend the state's sales tax to include services so enough revenue will be generated to pay local governments what they would have collected in property taxes.
At a recent speech before the LaGrange Rotary Club, there were about a dozen guests, proof of the interest being generated by his scheme. Of course, many of those visitors were local officials present to confront the enemy, so to speak.
"This idea might make some of you think I'm crazy," the Hiram Republican admits.
Though Richardson says the plan is still evolving, his current version would prohibit school boards, cities, counties and local authorities from imposing a tax on property for routine operations. They could use it to borrow money through bonds as long as a supermajority of their voters approve.
The speaker has his sales pitch down cold, complete with pithy lines like "why do we tax the American dream?" and car tag notices that amount to "Happy birthday, you owe us taxes."
Among his arguments is that taxing property made sense only when most landowners were farmers who earned their money in the lump-sum sale of their crops. But today, most people's income isn't tied to their property, leaving many owners unequipped to cope with rapid appreciation in property values that pushes up their taxes.
A fact he doesn't miss is that the property taxes are hugely unpopular. Many observers say it's because they have to be paid in a lump-sum as compared to spreading the pain out purchase by purchase through a sales tax or payroll withholding through an income tax.
Richardson's spokeswoman said the Republicans have found 80 percent support for axing the tax in a public survey. That's the kind of numbers that give any politician confidence.
The speaker tells a skeptical LaGrange school board member, "You go run on a platform that you want to keep property taxes just as they are, and I'll run on a platform that says I want to eliminate property taxes. …