Homestead Exemptions

Florida’s homstead exemption property tax caps (similar to that of California’s Proposition 13) are in the news these days as it has become a central issue in the governors race. Currently some candidates like Charlie Crist are advocating allowing people to take their exemption with them when they move. The argument being that people are trapped in their homes and can’t move due to the large increase in property taxes on the new property. The counter argument is that the legislation should be removed entirely, since it is effectively a wealth redistribution system that moves money from the poor (people who rent and can’t afford to purchase) and businesses (commercial property is not covered) to the rich (people who can afford to buy a home in Florida’s market).

While I agree that Florida’s homestead exemption does inadvertently hurt the poor and commercial interests and favors the rich, I would argue that instead of removing these exemptions, the right approach would be to extend these exemptions to the folks who are not helped by it, especially to rental property owners. California’s Proposition 13 does this, it’s exemptions apply to commercial property as well, which evens the playing field. I find it odd though that nobody is talking about this solution, especially on the Democratic side. The idea here is to level the field and also limit the amount of money the government receives, not increase it. Which in turn forces to government to spend less, always a good thing IMHO. Although Crist is not going this far, I do like his idea of allowing people to carry their exemptions with them.

All of this comes up after I watched the Florida governor debates today thanks to Tivo. I think I’ve pretty much made up my mind, I’m going to go with Charlie Crist. Tom Gallagher is too hard core on social issues – the guy is practically foaming at the mouth at the thought of Roe vs. Wade being overturned so he can pass a law illegalizing abortion in the state of Florida. While I agree Roe vs. Wade should be overturned as it was unconstitutional, I can’t in good conscience vote for a guy who lets his religious beliefs dictate his decisions on such important issues. I think the Supreme Court implemented the right policy, and I think Crist would implement similar legislation at the state level.

For me, Crist seems more like Florida’s own version of Giuliani – he’s pro civil unions, and takes a moderate stance on abortion, but he’s also pretty conservative on things like education, where he’s for school vouchers, and in general is a fiscal conservative. Unfortunately I can’t vote in the primary as I’m registered independent, but it looks like Crist pretty much has that in the bag. If he wins, he’ll get my vote at this point.

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