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Florida Voters Pass Amendment 4; Tax Breaks For Solar Energy

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) —  Voters in Florida have approved a constitutional amendment that'll provide property tax breaks for people who install solar panels on their homes.

The measure is winning statewide by a huge 73 percent to 27 percent margin. The measure needed 60 percent to win.

Amendment 4 was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote in both chambers of the Legislature. The increased value to a home from the installation of solar panels or other renewable energy devices can't be considered when assessing homes to determine property taxes.

The amendment also removes Florida's "tangible personal property tax," which taxes solar equipment installed on properties. Without it, leasing solar systems will be a more profitable business in Florida. Right now, despite abundant sunshine, Florida lags nationally in solar power production. Solar arrays are getting cheaper but are still costly, so providing more access to leasing for all property owners will increase the sun power generated in the state.

Environmentalists and business interests supported the measure.

Amendment 4 is one of two solar-related initiatives facing Florida voters this year.

Amendment 1 will be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. The proposal would grant homeowners the right to install solar panels on their houses. But it also would allow local and state governments to continue regulating the use of solar power, including making sure that customers without solar are not required to "subsidize" those who do use the panels.

Critics say it would further limit people with solar energy from selling that power to others. Florida is one of only four states where it's currently illegal for anyone other than a utility to sell electricity to consumers.

Amendment 1 is not supported by the same coalition of groups that support Amendment 4, but is backed by utilities.

Florida Power and Light spokesperson Alys Daly said in an email that the utility supports both amendments.

"They advance solar affordably and in a way that is fair for all Floridians — those who choose to invest in their own private solar arrays and those who do not or cannot," Daly wrote.

Amendment 4 received little opposition.

Jason Hoyt, chairman of a political action committee called Stop Playing Favorites, said in a statement on its website that the measure unfairly gives tax breaks to some, not all, Floridians.

"(It) will shortchange taxpayers while lining the pockets of big solar, big utility corporations and big business," Hoyt's statement said. "No matter the industry or issue, when the legislature makes exemptions, someone has to pay for it."


(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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