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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'Tax swap' headed toward ballot




House Speaker Marco Rubio shares a celebratory moment with TBRC member Patricia Levesque.

UPDATE: The proposal passed 21-4. Dissenting votes were cast by Barney Barnett, Mark Bostick, Randy Miller and Greg Turbeville.


A tax swap appears headed to the November ballot.

After hours of debate, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is close to voting on a proposal to eliminate school property taxes -- which make up 25 or more percent of an overall tax bill -- in favor of a 1 cent sales tax increase and other revenue sources.

"The people grabbed relief on Jan 29. but they are still clamoring for reform, true reform," said commission member Darryl Rouson.

Passage would represent a victory for former Sen. John McKay, who first broached the idea, and House Speaker Marco Rubio, who attempted something similar last year only to get rebuffed by the Senate. "You're our last hope," Rubio urged the 25-member panel. "If you’re waiting on the Florida Legislature to cut taxes, it isn't going to happen."

But Randy Miller of the Florida Retail Federation blasted the idea as light on details and full of problems. "A sales tax is a regressive tax, there's no way around it. ... It's not good for the economy."

While the "required local effort" for schools is currently about $8-billion, it will be more than $9-billion in 2011, Miller and others said, while the sales tax increase will not generate as much. That leaves a major hole for the Legislature to fill.

"It offers a lot of risk, particularly at this time when we're trying to come out of a scary economic situation," said Kurt Wenner of Florida TaxWatch.

While McKay's plan once seemed doomed, it was amended several times and no longer requires a mandatory look at a tax on services.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:18pm]


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