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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Voters: 'Super' tax exemption not so super



A statewide poll released this morning shows less than half of Florida voters support the "super" homestead exemption, a 10-point drop from July that casts serious doubt on it passing Jan. 29.

Voters support the property tax cutting plan 47 to 22 percent, with two-thirds of voters saying the proposal must be explained more clearly, according to the Quinnipiac University poll. This is down from 57 - 17 percent support for the tax cut plan in a July 19 poll and short of the 60-percent needed for passage.

"The poll offers conflicting signals about the Jan. 29 referendum. Opponents will be happy that the level of support has dropped from 57 percent to 47 percent - 13 points short of the margin needed for passage," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Supporters, however, can take some heart that there remains a strong desire for more tax cuts and not that much sympathy for local government claims they can't lose the revenue."

The poll also shows Gov. Charlie Crist has lost a bit of his shine. Voters gave him a 65 - 17 percent job approval rating, down from his all-time high 73 - 11 score in July. ("You might want to begin calling him 'Teflon Charlie,' " Brown said back then.)

Ballot experts predicted doom after the first poll because the proposed amendment already failed - though just barely - to gain the needed 60 percent approval. Ballot initiatives, they say, tend to get their strongest support at the beginning of a campaign.

"If I were managing that campaign, those would not be the numbers I was hoping for," Damien Filer, a political consultant in Tallahassee who helped win approval for the constitutional amendment that limits class size, told the St. Petersburg Times in July.

The 10 point slide reflected this morning could reflect studies showing that many people are, in the long run, better off sticking with Save Our Homes than going to the new plan. Also, taxpayers seem less than satisfied with the first tax relief offered by the Legislature - a rollback of local government tax bases.

Voters on Jan. 29 will be asked to replace the current $25,000 homestead exemption with a percentage based system that would knock off up to $195,000 on the first $500,000 of property value.

If the exemption is approved, existing homeowners would have to make a one-time, irrevocable choice whether to take the new exemption or stick with the 3 percent cap on annual property assessments known as Save Our Homes.

Brown notes the tax plan could get a boost if Democrats stay home on Jan. 29 because their presidential primary may not count due to a feud with the national party over the early date.

Other results from the poll:

  • By a 55 - 42 percent margin, Florida voters favor expanding legalized gambling to raise revenue needed to alleviate Florida's $1-billion budget shortfall. Also, 24 percent want lawmakers to tap the state's rainy day fund to fill the funding gap.
  • Florida voters prefer 51 - 31 percent service cuts instead of tax hikes to close the state budget deficit. By a 69 - 21 percent margin, voters want Crist and the Legislature to pick and choose which programs are cut rather than make an across-the board budget reduction.

From September 3 - 9, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,141 Florida voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:03pm]


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