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Amendment 4 Could Shift Tax Burden

MIAMI (CBS4) - Florida voters will have their say on 11 constitutional amendments during November's general election. Of all the amendments, Amendment 4 could have the most impact on Florida's voters.

In it's simplest form, it would drop future property tax bills for just about every property owner in the state. New homeowners stand to get a five year huge tax break. For example someone buying a $200,000 home in Miami would see their tax bill slashed by about $2,200 dollars immediately. Over five years they would save nearly $7,000.

"I think the first time home buyer portion will attract buyers of real estate to this state and may incentivize people who were waiting on the sidelines," newly elected property appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera told CBS4's David Sutta.

Cantera, who helped pass the bill in the Florida House is hopeful the measure will pass. Florida realtors across the state are endorsing the amendment as well.

Non-partisan Florida Tax Watch says nearly 20,000 jobs would be created and as many as 380,000 homes sold over next ten years if voters approve the measure.

Danielle Blake of the Miami Association of Realtors believes the boost would be tremendous.

"It stabilizes the economy; it helps bring new businesses in. It helps first time home buyers," Blake said.

Most cities and counties are against the amendment though because the bill also caps tax increases to 5% on non-homestead properties. Currently, the cap is set at 10%.

A non-homestead property essentially means commercial property and second homes. The category typically doesn't see much tax relief under Florida law, until now.

"The burden has shifted to the non-homestead properties, so this brings some fairness and some level to the playing field," Blake explained.

Barry Sharpe showed us around his mall property in Southwest Dade to explain how the amendment would effect people like him.

"This is not a house. This is not a snowbirds place. This is not a guy from Caracas Venezuela who is moving over here," Sharpe said. "This is a shopping center. I will benefit by only have to pay a 5% cap for many many years to come."

Sharpe smiled over the thousands in taxes he'll save on his properties, but he worries we all may pay higher taxes down the line.

"This is a transfer of tax. The millage rates are probably going to increase as a result of it," Sharpe said. "The counties need money to operate."

Cantera believes that counties and cities won't being seeing any kind of revenue cut. However, they will not be able to grab as much as they used to year after year. He said commissions will have to make hard choices if they need more revenue.

"If they believe they need more revenue then they will raise the millage," Cantera said. "That's what they are elected to do. This will not cut any revenue that is existing."

The House majority leader said he supported the measure in Tallahassee hoping to avoid the mess that happened when the market peaked. During the peak of he market, values skyrocketed 30 to 40% in a year's time. Property tax bills got out of hand.

"I'm not a fan of property taxes," Cantera said.

Unusual words for a newly elected property appraiser. He then explained, "I've always thought that they are an unfair form of property taxes because historically property taxes are the only tax that doesn't recognize what's happening in your life. If you lose your job, your income tax goes away because you have no income. You have less sales tax because you are spending less. Your property tax historically goes up."

Amendment 4 will offer corporate America a huge break aw well. Sharpe points out mega properties like the Dolphin and Dadeland mall would save more than $275,000 next year with the 5% tax cap.

"This is a great thing for them," Sharpe said.

Cantera countered, "This is not about Dadelands and Merrick Parks." He suggested Amendment 4 is really about relief and fairness for everyone.

Still, there is no law or enforcement in place that forces any corporation to pass the tax savings along to customers.

For 4 to pass 60% of the voters must approve it. Historically, property tax amendments do well in Florida.

However, given the record breaking length of the ballot it's not a sure thing. The newspapers have differing opinions on this matter also.

The Sun Sentinel is saying to vote for Amendment 4 because it offers tax relief. The Miami Herald is saying to vote against it suggesting government would be hit hard with less future income.

  • Click here for more on all of the amendments on the ballot.


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