Sunday, April 22, 2018
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott promises $1 billion in tax cuts for second term

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott is promising Florida voters a $1 billion package of tax and fee cuts in a second term, including new limits on property tax increases and another cut in auto tag fees.

Every one of the proposals Scott will roll out in a two-week statewide tour starting Monday would require the approval of the Legislature, which previously has been lukewarm to Scott's call for a phase-out of the state corporate income tax and a sales tax break for manufacturers.

Scott's most ambitious tax cut idea would require approval of 60 percent of voters: a constitutional amendment to prevent property tax increases on homesteaded property if a home's value stays level or goes down.

"It's a political ploy. That's all it is," said former Republican Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, whom Scott appointed to be Pasco County's tax collector last year. "He's got to get the Legislature to agree with him and the impact would be just too great."

Property taxes are the backbone of all local government in Florida, and they increasingly carry the burden of paying for public school operations. The ability local governments have to keep up with growth during economic upswings is already hampered by the Save Our Homes amendment, which caps annual property tax increases at 3 percent. The Scott proposal would limit cities' and counties' ability to collect revenue during economic downturns as well by prohibiting tax increases if the assessed value of the home goes down.

Take a home bought 10 years ago for $150,000. The assessed value is now $200,000, but because of the Save Our Homes cap, the owner might be paying the artificially low taxable value of $170,000. So that means if that home's value drops to $198,000, its taxes would still climb by 3 percent because the taxable value, after years of caps, is "catching up" to its appraised value.

Scott's proposed amendment, however, would eliminate that "catch up" mechanism.

The proposal comes at a time when local governments are finally seeing revenues climb again after the prolonged hangover from the Great Recession. County taxes have been reduced by more than $3 billion since 2007, leaving many road projects and public safety improvement projects in limbo.

"We'll look at it and try to better understand the impact it would have," said Cragin Mosteller, spokeswoman for the Florida League of Counties. "We hope that anything that would further reduce our tax base would be measured against the needs of our citizens and our communities."

The same measure was included in Florida Amendment 4 in 2012, which was defeated by 57 percent of the vote.

A Scott campaign spokesman wouldn't say which year the governor intended the newest proposal to be voted on or whether commercial properties and vacation homes would be included.

"These policies will be implemented with input from the Legislature," spokesman Greg Blair responded in an email.

Some of Scott's tax ideas are not new and have been rejected by the Legislature in the past. Scott proposed a sales tax exemption for new manufacturing in 2013, but the Legislature approved a limited exemption for three years.

The lack of details left lobbyists for local governments reserving judgment.

"Obviously we'd be cautious about any tax cuts," said Amber Hughes, lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities. "We're still trying to figure out what it all means."

Scott's other proposals include $200 million in sales tax holidays, a $120 fee reduction on the $225 charge for first-time vehicle registrations, a reduction in taxes on cellphones of $120 a year and phasing out the 6 percent sales tax on commercial leases — an idea Scott proposed to the Legislature last spring that went nowhere.

Scott hits the road Monday to promote the proposals in a two-week statewide tour as part of his bid for re-election. Scott's call for another reduction in auto fees comes as a cut in vehicle registration fees, which he pushed for and should save a typical motorist about $25, goes into effect Tuesday. Friday's announcement contrasts with the tax and fee increases, mostly on cigarettes and car registrations, that his Democratic opponent for governor, Charlie Crist, approved during a major budget crisis in 2009.

The rhetoric from Scott's camp Friday also underscored a basic tenet of his re-election strategy, to link Crist with President Barack Obama in voters' minds as much as possible.

"We threw out Charlie Crist's Obama playbook," Scott said in a statement, "and now we're going to continue Florida's turnaround with a $1 billion tax cut commitment to Florida's families over the next two years."

Former Democratic state Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, speaking for Crist, said Scott was making "empty promises" to obscure the fact that he pushed for a $1.3 billion cut to public schools in his first year in office, and that despite Scott's 2010 campaign pledge to slash property taxes, Floridians are paying $400 million more today in property taxes than when Crist was governor from 2007 to 2011.

Comments
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Published: 04/19/18
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18