Big Relief For Florida Homeowners In Sight, As New Property Tax Break Poised To Go To Ballot In 2018

May 1, 2017

A big property tax break for homeowners is likely headed to the Florida ballot after Republicans and Democrats in the Senate joined forces Monday in support of a broader homestead exemption.

The most far-reaching change to Florida tax policy in years now heads back to the House where it is all but assured a favorable vote as the linchpin of Speaker Richard Corcoran’s agenda.

Six Senate Democrats joined 22 Republicans in approving the measure. If passed by voters, it would expand the state homestead property tax exemption to $75,000.

Back-room talks continued Monday night as lawmakers face a deadline of midnight Tuesday to complete a budget or risk an extended session.

The Senate vote was 28-10, with one seat vacant and one senator absent. The only Republican who voted no was Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

To pass, the proposal needed three-fifths of the Senate or 24 votes. Without Latvala, there were 22 Republican votes, making the issue a rare case in which Democratic votes were necessary to pass a Republican priority.

Some Democratic senators were visibly frustrated that they couldn’t unify and defeat it.

“I am begging my colleagues to think long and hard about this,” said Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point.

Even though voters won’t have their say for 18 months, the proposal is sure to play a big role in the 2018 campaign, which will include a race for governor. About 4.3 million Floridians claim the current homestead exemption, which lowers the taxable value on a primary residence by $50,000.

With the loss of so much revenue at stake, cities and counties are likely to mount an aggressive campaign to rally public opposition, and every candidate for state office in 2018 will be under pressure to take sides.

Read more at our news partners, the Miami Herald