Property Tax Reform Public Hearing

The fight for property tax reform is gaining momentum. Area residents are letting lawmakers know the tax man is making it near impossible to maintain or buy into their dream home.

Suwannee County resident Ernest Lei calls it a sob story.

"My wife beat cancer, I beat a heart attack, but some way we have to beat this tax business. It's just not easy. My wife is hoping that her arithmetic comes out where we can pay it when we get paid this month from social security. If not, I guess I'll have to sell the car."

Lei says increasing property taxes are putting many others in rural Florida in similar situations. Monday night they were able to share those worries with Florida State Representatives Debbie Boyd and Will Kendrick face-to-face.

The Property Reform Tax Ad Hoc Committee was also present.

Rep. Debbie Boyd, (D) Live Oak, FL, said, "Our citizens are in pain. They're experiencing exorbitant property tax increases. For some of them they're losing their homes. We have a problem with businesses that are choosing to close up and move out of state."

The Florida House Majority proposes a rollback in millage rates and an increase in sales tax to alleviate property taxes.

Barry Zimmerman, a Suwannee County resident, said, "I'm really concerned about the eight-and-a-half percent they want to have for the state. I think it'll hurt poor people. I think it'll make people who have part-time jobs lose jobs. I think it's going to hurt tourism."

The Senate plans to roll out its property tax reform proposal this week.

Sen. Mike Haridopolos, (R) Brevard County, FL, said, "We want to go the other way tax the actual use of property. We think that's a fair way of doing things. I hope the House will buy into this idea."

Legislators expect to have a complete plan by the close of session in May. Monday night's public hearing is the only one on the issue planned for north Florida.