Various reports today, including the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times, write about a Quinnipiac University poll. There are some intersting numbers, and I think Speaker Marco Rubio’s plan is pretty much dead.
I know that we haven’t done much here at State of Sunshine on this topic. Other bloggers and the media are doing a good job of covering the issues from all sides. But the first real numbers from Floridians on this issue are interesting.
The top issues facing the state of Florida (numbers in parenthesis reflect the percentage in December 2006)
- Property insurance 15% (22%)
- Property taxes 15% (6%)
- Eduation 10% (15%)
- Population growth 7% (7%)
- Immigration 6% (9%)
- Economy 5% (6%)
- Health Care 4% (2%)
- Taxes (general) 4% (3%)
- Public safety 3% (4%)
Property taxes joined propery insurance as a new major issue. It is interesting that property taxes were in the single digits (1-2%) for most of 2006, but recently rose. I wonder if this is as much a product of the media as a real concern among the voters. The volume of news articles about property taxes has increased significantly since the first of the year. (Is it the chicken or the egg??)
Looking at other questions in the poll, a slim majority of voters think that Florida’s taxes are too high (52%) while a large minority (43%) feels that the taxes are about right. These numbers barely change when breaking down by homeowners versus renters. When asked if property taxes are a higher burden in Florida than other states, a slim majority (51%) feels they are too high while 34% feel they are about the same. It is intersting that more renters (54%) feel the burden is too high than homeowners (50%).
When asked if voters would support less government services in exchange for lower taxes, 49% said yes while40% said no. Homeowners (52%-38%) were in support, but renters (40%-44%) would not support cutting government services.
Voters all believe that the sales tax is more fair than the property tax, by more than two-to-one at 63%-28%. Renters had an even larger disparity at 66%-21%.
Voters are evenly split on the isue of eliminating the Save Our Homes amendment, 46%-44%, with homeowners at 45%-45% and renters at 51%-41%.
Voters overwhelmingly support:
- rolling back property tax rates to 2001 and capping increases (69%-23%),
- portability (62%-28%),
- doubling the homestead exemption (73%-21%),
- helping business owners (70%-24%), and
- want the legislature to wait until 2008 (72%-24%).
Voters overwhelmingly oppose helping renters (28%-63%). Renters barely support helping themselves (48%-44%).
Finally, in asking specifially about Speaker Rubio’s plan, only34% – barely 1 in 3 voters – feel that replacing property taxes with sales taxes is a good idea; a majority (51%) think its a bad idea. In this case, renters do what we expect – a higher percentage of renters (58%) think it’s a bad idea. Even when the question is phrased differently, support or oppose raising the sales tax to lower property taxes, almost half (48%) oppose the idea while only 44% support it. (Again, renters oppose the measure more strongly than homeowners.)
What to expect
Overall, I would say that any amendment that includes a sales tax component will fail. Since the Florida Senate has not come forward with it’s proposal, it is difficult to say what till be included, but here is my proposal.
Roll back property tax rates. The newest version of the House bill rolls back rates to 2003-2004 levels. This is at the beginning of the most recent upturn in property vaues – as the economy startd recovering from the 2001 recession.
Cap future tax increases. Varous proposals cap future increases at some combination of inflation (using the CPI) and population growth. This makes some sense, but there needs to be an escape clause for unfunded mandates and emergency situations.
Provide portability. Allowing homeowners to move some of their benefits from an existing home protected by the Save Our Homes cap to a new home would remove some of the burden.
Protect first-time homebuyers. Nevada has a mechanism that provides a cap when an existing home is sold to a first-time home buyer (either first house in general or the first house in the state). This would protect people who are currently renting and want to buy in the future. This cap need not apply to new construction – including when a home is bought and razed to make room for a new home. (However, if new construction is also capped, then we can expect higher impact fees to cover the cost of the growth.)
Create a Save Our Business cap. This cap would higher than the 3% Save Our Homes cap, and would apply the cap only to market values. If the property appraiser uses an income valuation, the cap should not apply. (If the business owner collects more money year-to-year, then the property taxes should increase the same amount.)
These five measures would be enough to answer the concerns of the voters. Property taxes wouldn’t decrease much, if at all, but they won’t increase much in the future. Local governments need to tighten their belts, and the voters need to decide what services their local governments really ought to provide.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Senate. I expect that will be the plan that will pass.