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The TaxWatch Research Blog is a forum where our research staff can address topics and issues in a short format. Keep an eye on this space during Legislative Session for frequent posts making sense of the activity at the Capitol. 

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Yes on Amendment 2 to prevent nearly $1 billion property tax hike

Let’s not mince words here: There are a lot of amendments on this November’s ballot. A lot. Those who watch these things closely worry that voters will feel overwhelmed, and simply vote no on everything, or leave them all blank, and this isn’t an unreasonable fear.

But on behalf of literally every resident of the Sunshine State, Floridians must vote “yes” on Amendment 2. Renters, business owners and consumers will be in for a major property tax increase if it fails to pass.

Amendment 2 makes permanent the existing 10 percent cap on the annual increase in non-homestead property tax assessments, meaning that it is the only measure on this year’s ballot that does not change current law. It doesn’t raise taxes, lower taxes, or do anything more than keep a reasonable protection in place.

This cap protects non-homestead properties. A homestead property is a Florida homeowner’s primary residence. Non-homestead properties, on the other hand, include residential rental properties, all commercial property, undeveloped land — anything that is not the owner’s primary residence.

In truth, this cap already has been approved by voters. In 2008, a successful ballot initiative put in place several permanent tax reductions or exemptions, and one non-permanent provision — the 10 percent cap, which is set to expire in January 2019 unless Amendment 2 receives the required three-fifths supermajority.

Voters in Florida have, over time, put a variety of exemptions and annual caps into the state Constitution to lessen the taxable value of certain types of property. The Save Our Homes amendment in 1992 put in place an annual cap of the lesser of 3 percent or change in the consumer price index (CPI) on how much the tax assessed value of a homestead property can increase, which has helped keep property taxes fairly steady for homeowners. But commercial and non-homestead residential properties don’t enjoy the same protections.

The 10 percent non-homestead assessment cap is the only protection these properties have, and it has helped to stem the multi-billion-dollar tax shift from homestead to non-homestead properties that Florida’s property tax system creates.

If the amendment fails to pass, all non-homestead property would be assessed at its full value beginning in January 2019, and the combined potential tax increase could reach nearly $700 million per year. Going forward, there would be no limit as to how high property tax assessments could go.

Non-homestead properties already carry a disproportionate share of the property tax burden in Florida. We, a healthy and diversified economy, cannot afford to make it worse.

If you rent your home or apartment, shop at any business, or own or work for a business, this cap affects you directly. When the cost of business goes up, the cost of what that business sells goes up. No one would be immune from the increase.

Florida cannot afford to raise rent for millions and increase the cost of business, especially for seniors, families, and those on fixed incomes. If you want to keep the Sunshine State competitive and thriving, the 10 percent cap on non-homestead assessments must be made permanent.

Floridians should vote “yes” on Amendment 2.

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