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Romy Ellenbogen
By Romy Ellenbogen March 20, 2018

Scott breaks promise for property tax amendment

Gov. Rick Scott has been promoting an amendment making it harder to raise taxes. But he hasn't worked toward a property tax amendment he promised in 2014.

Scott promised in 2014 to "propose amending Florida's Constitution to prevent families' property taxes from increasing year after year if the value of their homes remains the same or goes down."

In his final State of the State address, Scott said he wanted a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to pass a tax increase, continuing his goal of lowering taxes. "It will force leaders to contemplate living within their means rather than taking the easy way out and just sticking it to the public by raising taxes on families and job creators," Scott said.

The state Legislature passed the idea for a two-thirds requirement in each legislative chamber (HJR 7001) during the 2018 session, leaving the final decision to Florida voters this November. The measure needs 60 percent to pass.

However, Scott in this legislative session did not push for the amendment about property taxes — the one that he promised in 2014 — and the Legislature did not advance such an idea.

The Department of State's Division of Elections, which keeps a list of all proposed initiatives and amendments to the constitution, does not have any record of an amendment during Scott's term that would keep property taxes from increasing if the value of the home stays constant or decreases.

To get this proposal on the ballot, Scott would have needed to have a joint resolution in the Florida Legislature or a proposed citizens initiative. It could have also been proposed by the Constitutional Revision Commission.

When reached for comment, Scott spokeswoman Kerri Wyland wrote in an email that Scott had kept a broader promise by cutting "taxes over 80 times, saving Floridians more than $7.5 billion."  PolitiFact Florida previously rated a similar talking point about 75 tax cuts Half True, because Scott counted anything that reduced government revenue as a tax cut, when several were not.

Wyland's comment did not address the specific promised property tax amendment we asked about.

Currently, Floridians can reduce the amount paid in property taxes with the homestead exemption and Save Our Homes assessment, said Kurt Wenner, Vice President of Research from Florida TaxWatch. Save Our Homes, passed in 1992, says a home assessment can't go up more than 3 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower at the time. The difference between the market value and the assessment is the benefit given to homeowners, or the differential.

Exemptions also exist for veterans, active duty military, and people age 65 and older.

Wenner said if the amendment Scott originally had in mind were in place, it would counteract the pre-existing recapture rule, which says if the market value falls and a home assessment still remains below the market value, the assessment will go up, despite the falling property values.

He said if the amendment did exist, it wouldn't make a large impact since home values in the state have been on the rise.

"It's not the issue certainly that it was a few years back, when the housing bubble busted and everybody's home values fell," he said.

We rate this Promise Broken.

Our Sources

Kerri Wyland, Gov. Rick Scott's Press Office, email, 1/23/18

Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch, phone interview 1/23/18 and 1/24/18

Florida Department of State Division of Elections, accessed Jan. 22, 2018

PolitiFact, "Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he's cut taxes 75 times, creating 1.3 million jobs. Did he?" accessed 1/22/18

Florida House Ways and Means Committee 1/24/18

Gov. Rick Scott State of the State address, accessed 1/22/18

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