Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge might strike 'tax swap' amendment from November ballot

TALLAHASSEE — A controversial property tax cut proposal could have trouble making it on the November ballot, if a judge's skepticism on Wednesday is any guide.

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper, who is expected to rule today, appeared receptive in court to opponents of Amendment 5, who are seeking to strike the so-called tax swap from the ballot.

The measure calls for eliminating most school property taxes for at least a 25 percent tax cut for all property owners. The Legislature would have to replace the money, an estimated $9-billion to $11-billion, by increasing the sales tax and raising other revenue or cutting the budget.

Almost immediately after the 90-minute hearing began, Cooper started to pick apart the wording of the ballot summary, agreeing it could mislead voters. He mainly faulted a provision that states that the lost funding for schools would be replaced with an "equivalent hold harmless amount."

But the proposal only guarantees school funding in year 2010-2011. It then directs the Legislature to come up with a way to fund schools for future years. Voters, Cooper said, might not understand that.

"Doesn't the public ultimately have to be told what it's being asked to decide?" Cooper asked.

Former state Sen. John McKay, who helped create the proposal as a member of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, said the guarantee was limited to one year because school enrollments change and lawmakers need flexibility.

"This was soberly thought out," the Bradenton Republican told reporters.

The lawsuit seeking to strike the ballot measure was filed by a coalition that includes Associated Industries of Florida, Florida School Boards Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce and about 2 dozen other groups.

McKay said the plaintiffs were just trying to hold onto their sales tax exemptions (bottled water and chartered fishing tours, for example, are not taxed) or prevent a tax on services.

But Cooper seemed to be sympathetic to arguments made by the coalition's attorney, Barry Richard.

He said the 15-word ballot title only describes two of the five changes. Unmentioned, for example, is a provision cutting in half another discretionary property tax available to local governments for funding schools. The summary makes a brief mention.

Defense lawyers noted the taxation commission, appointed by the governor and Legislature, is not bound by a single ballot subject and said the description does not have to include every detail.

"This is a listing of what is in the amendment," defense attorney Mark Herron, said of the ballot summary. "Does it specifically list every nuance and every detail? I would agree with everyone in the courtroom that it doesn't."

Judge might strike 'tax swap' amendment from November ballot 08/13/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 15, 2008 12:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manhattan Casino controversy resumes after taking a break for Irma

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration has once again found itself defending its controversial choice of the Callaloo Group to open a "Floribbean" restaurant in the historic but currently empty Manhattan Casino.

  2. At Menorah Manor, planning paid off during Irma

    Nursing Homes

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doris Rosenblatt and her husband, Frank, have lived in Florida all of their lives, so they know about hurricanes.

    Raisa Collins, 9, far left, works on a craft project as Certified Nursing Assistant Shuntal Anthony holds Cassidy Merrill, 1, while pouring glue for Quanniyah Brownlee, 9, right, at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15. To help keep its patients safe during Hurricane Irma, Menorah Manor allowed employees to shelter their families and pets at the nursing home and also offered daycare through the week. The facility was able to accommodate and feed everyone who weathered the storm there. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. Carlton: The cross atop the church that moved, and other strange tales from Hurricane Irma


    Down in Miami, the famous tan-don't-burn Coppertone Girl on the side of a building lost her head — part of it, at least, the top of her blond hair lopped off in the fierce winds of Hurricane Irma. ("At least her tan line and doggie weathered the storm," the Miami Herald noted optimistically.)

    Hurricane Irma partly decapitated the Coppertone Girl in Miami. [Miami Herald]
  4. After Irma, nursing homes scramble to meet a hard deadline

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power …

    In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood. Nine have died and patients had to be moved out of the facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. [Amy Beth Bennett | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]
  5. What you need to know for Wednesday, Sept. 20


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Mumford and Sons, pictured here performing in New York City, performs tonight at Amalie Arena, the group's first visit to the Tampa Bay area.  [Getty]