Property Taxes: State government may be grabbing a tiger by the tail

You have to say, the Florida Legislature is not shy about taking on difficult tasks.

Under a bill in the House, a study would be done to determine the feasibility of eliminating property taxes and replacing the revenue with an increase in the sales tax.

Local governments collect about $25 billion a year in property taxes. The state collects about $36 billion in sales tax.

As with any change, there would be winners and losers.

It is difficult to see how the change would take place. The state does not have a property tax. Would it allow entities losing property tax revenue to charge sales taxes that would generate an equal amount or raise the state sales tax and attempt to distribute it to local governments?

Liberals, of course, would focus only on how the poor might fare. But the poor don’t pay their fair share now, so the change might restore some balance.

Consumption taxes are fair in the sense that you only pay when you spend money and the wealthy spend more money than the poor.

The wealthy also pay more in property taxes, but measures such as the homestead exemption and Save Our Homes can make a substantial difference.

It would affect housing prices, and rents.

Rep. Ryan Chamberlin, sponsor of the bill, said he just wants to levy taxes “in a smarter way.”

Florida is a relatively low-tax state and does not have a personal income tax. The House currently is considering a $647.3 million tax cut package, which is lower than the previous fiscal year’s $1.3 billion in tax breaks but still welcome.

One of the biggest factors is this. The property tax virtually all comes from the pockets of Florida residents, while tourists pay a large part of the state’s sales tax. The question always is how much can you soak the tourists without scaring them away.

The study would be completed a year from now.

There’s nothing wrong with studying the issue, but attempting to make the change is likely to ignite fierce debate.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


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