State legislature debating issue of property tax increase

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
November 16, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- If you pay more in property taxes this coming year, you would consider it a tax hike. It's a battle state lawmakers are about to have and, depending on how things turns out, it could cost you more.

Property values in some counties are up nine percent this year. As a result, school districts will collect $569 million more from property owners.

Governor Rick Scott and lawmakers who want the money to boost school spending say it's not a tax increase, because the tax rate did not go up.

Senate Budget Chair Rob Bradley uses the analogy of buying two lawnmowers months apart: "You will pay more taxes on the second lawnmower than the first because the price has increased, but that's not a tax increase. The tax rate is the same."

But Representative Matt Caldwell, who chairs the House Governmental Accountability Committee, calls the comparison "apples and oranges."

"At the end of the day, the taxpayers are paying more than they were last year," he said.

The issue is important because lawmakers, not local governments, set the required local effort, which is designed to equalize school funding across the state. Lawmakers have reduced the required local effort over the last two years.

Last year, the House drew a line in the sand. Representative Paul Renner wants to keep it that way again this year.

"We certainly want to lower the tax burden on citizens this year, not increase it," he explained.

Governor Scott is siding with the Senate this year. The bulk of his proposed increase for public schools comes from higher local property values.

Governor Scott is seeking fewer tax cuts and more spending in 2018 ahead of what is expected to be a run for the U.S. Senate.

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