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Tax troubles beget bill to change law

Reacting to a Pasco County investigation into his brother's Dade City homestead exemption, state Rep. Ken Littlefield said he wants to help others who find themselves in a similar situation.

Littlefield, R-Dade City, tacked onto a Senate bill an amendment that would have allowed gubernatorial and presidential appointees to keep homestead exemptions active in their hometowns, even if they move to Tallahassee or somewhere else for the job.

The exemption would not change rules that allow only one exemption per person, so an appointee couldn't buy a second home and claim exemptions on both.

Even though the amendment would not have been retroactive and would not have saved brother Carl Littlefield _ a Gov. Jeb Bush appointee _ from a looming $7,600 tax bill, Ken Littlefield said he bowed to concerns by the main bill sponsor and retracted the amendment.

He said he has not abandoned the idea and will look for another bill where he might add the exemption.

Carl Littlefield became the target of a Pasco County Property Appraiser's investigation this month after a St. Petersburg Times inquiry into why he was allowed to keep his $25,000 homestead exemption on a Dade City house while living in Tallahassee, where he is a $94,000-a-year full-time state employee.

Ken Littlefield lives in the Dade City house while his brother rents a home in Tallahassee.

In addition to costing Carl Littlefield the homestead exemption, Property Appraiser Mike Wells' ruling meant penalties and interest. It also put back into play $80,000 of property tax off the books under the Save Our Homes exemption. The result will more than double Carl Littlefield's annual tax bill from about $2,380 to $5,193.

Ken Littlefield said Wednesday that it's wrong to penalize homeowners who agree to serve the public in a government job.

After learning of his brother's troubles, Ken Littlefield said he talked with others serving in appointed positions, including former Sen. Bill Bankhead of Jacksonville, who heads the Department of Juvenile Justice, before deciding to add the amendment.

"In this process things happen where you see a place where the law could be made better," he said. "It shouldn't cost extra to serve government."

Members of the military are currently allowed to keep their homestead exemptions if they are stationed out of town.

Ken Littlefield on Friday added the measure to a Senate bill that would adjust an existing law allowing low-income seniors an additional homestead exemption. Ken Littlefield removed the amendment Wednesday but said he would look for another place to add his amendment.