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Michael Sittig: If Amendment 1 passes, most of us lose

When you go to the polls in November, there is more at stake than the general election. You’ll also be voting on Amendment 1 to the state constitution, and a no vote will help ensure that we won’t be hit right in the wallet.

Florida’s property tax system is a complicated mess. Amendment 1 won’t fix it. Instead, it would make it worse and more complicated.

Don’t be misled by the description of the amendment as a “homestead exemption increase.” Amendment 1 is not fair. Some pay less, but millions pay more. The state politicians call it a tax break, but it’s actually a tax SHIFT.

Most of the tax breaks go to a handful of homeowners. Less than one-fourth of Florida’s properties fall into that narrow category. This means that more than three-fourths of the properties owned by small-business owners, manufacturers and working families will carry a heavier load. Shouldn’t Florida’s tax system work across the board for all of us who own property, not just a select few? Renters also are expected to carry an increased share of the property tax burden, passed on from their landlords.

If you own a small business, then Amendment 1 is a double-whammy. First, it shifts taxes onto small businesses. Second, Amendment 1 exposes small businesses to bigger tax hikes later because a business’ taxable value grows faster than that of a home. That means business owners will shoulder a larger share of the tax burden. That’s bad for our small businesses, and it’s bad for our economy.

Amendment 1 is a one-size-fits-all scheme concocted by state politicians. But what’s good for some of our communities isn’t always good for others. What should be done with local property taxes should be decided locally, not by a group at the capital.

I have 45 years of service to the Florida League of Cities, with 20 years as executive director, which gives me a good perspective on what works and doesn’t work for our cities and our citizens. Looking back, we see that in the two previous homestead exemptions, counties were forced to increase their millage rates. While it’s not inevitable, you could make a good argument that the same thing could happen again. Regardless of whether taxes are increased, if you’re not in that narrow $100,000 to $125,000 slot, you’ll get hit with a larger, unfair tax burden.

We believe in citizen-centered local self-government. Our local communities should be trusted to decide their priorities and determine how they’re going to pay for them.

Amendment 1 is opposed by the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Policy Institute and Florida TaxWatch.

We must link arms with our neighbors and stand together. Vote No on Amendment 1.

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Michael Sittig is executive director of the Florida League of Cities.

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