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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio talks taxes and gets surprised by Crist



House Speaker Marco Rubio met with top business interests today to talk property taxes. Bottom line: The cuts ordered up by the Legislature this year are a good first step.

Rubio urged support for the Jan. 29 "super" homestead exemption because, "No. 1, it’s hard to get a tax cut out of government to begin with and No. 2, it’s hard to get a cut of this magnitude. It will help a lot of people save a lot of money. ... And now that our governor has come out in favor of it so strongly, he’s going to lead that effort, and we hope that we can work together and make that happen.”

But the Miami Republican made clear that the intent of the strategy session was to form ideas for the next step  -- whether the amendment passes or fails. Business wants an end to the assessment practice known as "highest and best use," a revamped system for appealing valuation and simply lower taxes for non-homestead property.

Gov. Crist made a surprise visit and offered encouragement. But the appearance (watch the video) hinted at tension as both Republican superstars compete for the upper-hand in leading the charge for lower property taxes.

At the table: The Florida Chamber of Commerce, Realtors, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Most of those groups were not enthusiastic about Rubio's "tax swap," which would increase sales tax to do away with property taxes on primary homes. The idea died with opposition in the Senate, but Rubio remains interested. Still, he shifted attention away from that today. "My goal at the end of the day is to fix the property tax crisis in Florida."

No hard decisions were made and Rubio said the group should keep talking. He said the expedient route for change is through the Legislature but warned that if things do not happen, people will start a ballot initiative. The timing of which would come just as he leaves the Legislature.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:04pm]


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