Crist wants to add property tax relief to session
By BRENT KALLESTAD
2:29 PM EDT, October 9, 2007
Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday he wants to extend the current special legislative session through the weekend to try to come up with a new property tax relief plan.
Crist said he was persuaded by some lawmakers' suggestions for doubling the present $25,000 homestead exemption and allowing homeowners to take existing property tax breaks with them when they move.
``Why not go ahead and get the job done,'' Crist said. ``The people would like that I'm sure, so that's what I want to do.
Lawmakers are meeting through Friday to cut the state budget by about $1.1 billion due to a shortfall in tax revenue.
Some of the plans lawmakers approved in June to cut property taxes have run into legal trouble, so Crist wants to try again before another special session planned for later this month.
Crist has often repeated his desire to see property taxes ``drop like a rock,'' but so far the state has only provided what it says will be an average of $174 in savings for each homeowner.
Democratic Senate leader, Steve Geller of Cooper City, said he thought the new plan would only provide an additional estimated $220 per homeowner. He said that was not enough to justify the cuts that cities and counties would have to make in some services.
``The pain it would cause to local government is immense,'' Geller said.
House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, said he talked with Crist about a timeline for dealing with the issue but nothing has been completed. Senate President Ken Pruitt did not immediately respond to a phone message.
Legislative leaders had earlier set another special session for later this month to draft a new property tax relief plan for the Jan. 29 presidential primary ballot. A judge has removed a proposal that lawmakers passed in June from the ballot because he said its summary is misleading and inaccurate.
That proposal would have phased out the popular Save Our Homes amendment, which caps annual assessment increases at 3 percent for homeowners, and replaced it with a larger exemption. But some have complained that homeowners would actually pay more in the long run.
The new plan Crist envisions would leave Save Our Homes intact. It would include a ``portability'' provision, though, that would let homeowners take at least a portion of their Save Our Homes benefits to a new house.