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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Finally, the 'tax swap' headed for ballot



[TBRC member Les Miller of Tampa congratulates John McKay after passage of the plan. Times photo |Scott Keeler]

By a 18-7 vote, the TBRC just approved the "tax swap" to eliminate most school property taxes for a higher sales tax and other revenue sources.

The plan, which would cut property taxes by an estimated 25 percent, now goes before voters in November. It needs 60 percent approval and then the Legislature would have to come up with a way to replace $9-billion more in lost property tax revenue for schools -- a feat critics says is impossible without imposing a services tax.

The outcome seemed to hinge on some trading, chiefly swap proponent John McKay throwing his backing behind a voucher plan that will be voted on tomorrow.

"We need to let the people of Florida decide this issue for themselves," said Taxation and Budget Reform Commission member Carlos Lacasa. "They know what the stakes are. And they also know what the benefits are."

"It's so easy to do nothing and just go along and hope things are going to change and get better," added commissioner Jim Scott. "This is a very significant thing this commission can do."

But critics lashed out as the plan putting school funding and the economy in trouble, with a higher sales tax and possibly a services tax. "I am concerned we are about to do something and put it in our constitution that is going to wreck our economy," commissioner Randy Miller said. "This is just not a well founded proposal. I have said that time and time again. .. This is a bad, bad proposal."

Darryl Rouson said people who opposed the plan, or like Mike Hogan and Susan Story, changed their earlier vote "Reminds me of buyer's remorse and to some extent, sour grapes."

He added, "Some votes are significant, some stands are important, some things you have to do for principle and not for retaliation or vendetta because something you wanted did not" get on the ballot.

The plan also includes a 5 percent cap for nonhomestead property, lowering the 10 percent cap that was enacted in January under Amendment 1.

In an interview, McKay denied his 180-degree turn on vouchers was intended to shore up support for the swap. Rather, he said he had a recent talk with voucher guru John Kirtley.

"I think I had a misunderstand of what was before us. I know I had a misunderstand. So I'm more comfortable with it than I was ... Nobody has been a bigger proponent in this Legislature than me."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:53am]


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