Senate sends amendment to House
Sen. Dan Webster (facing camera) hugs Senate President Ken Pruitt as Democratic Sen. Steve Geller looks on. Times | Scott Keeler
The Senate met for three hours and passed a scaled down plan that they had only released details on the night before. Their plan includes a measure to allow homesteaded homeowners to take their savings from the Save Our Homes cap with them when they move, but it doesn’t hold schools harmless.
After the 35-4 vote, Senate President Ken Pruitt told senators “our work is done” allowing them to return home, sending a strong signal to the House that the Senate would not be around to compromise or accept any changes from the House.
Early in the morning several Senate Democrats said they were worried about cuts to education which total around $2 billion over four to five years. But at the time of the vote, most senators said that they thought their tax package was good enough.
“Our cuts to education are much smaller. I think this bill will pay for itself and will be good for the people of florida,” said Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Green Acres. “I do still have concerns, but I’m not going to allow the perfect to be the enemy of good. Ultimately it’s going to up to our districts.I think this is good enough.”
Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who had been concerned that a previous property tax package was too complicated, said she thought this package was much better.
“I’m very happy with this package,” Dockery said. “I can tell you that some of us, really weren’t that happy with that (last) plan. My constitutents were very confused by us. This plan before us is a good plan.”
Some like Sen. Jeremy Ring and Sen. Ronda Storms voted for the package while saying they didn’t think it would much.
“How do I feel battered, let me count the ways,” said Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, who attempted to deepen the Senate’s 10 percent cap on assessed value increases on non-homesteaded properties. She withdrew that attempt, when it was clear it wouldn’t pass. “I think some of us, or really just this freshman senator feels battered, because things that we tried to fight for, aren’t there.”
Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, warned those who planned to vote against the bill that “there’s an opportunity cost of doing nothing.”
However, a few senators voted against the bill including Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando and Republicans Sen. Rudy Garcia and Alex Villalobos of Miami.
“When you start off an argument and say we have to settle for less, that’s what you end up with -- that’s what we ended up with,” said Villalobos, who was most concerned that provisions for poor seniors were stripped from the package. “Expectations were really raised and we told people they were going to get signicant tax breaks and the truth of the matter is, they’re not.”
Some, including Sen. Steve Geller, said they weren’t sure if the portability provision is constitutional, but would vote for it anyway, assuming it is.
-- Jennifer Liberto