Groups caution against Amendment 1

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida voters will hit the polls in November to decide on a dozen -- three proposals are tied up in the courts -- possible amendments to the Florida Constitution.

Of those amendments, one, Amendment 1, is drawing criticism from many sides. The proposed amendment would expand the homestead exemption, increasing it from $50,000 to $75,000. However, the additional $25,000 exemption would apply only to homes worth more than $100,000.

“It’s a windfall for people with expensive properties; it will add up to just a couple hundred bucks a year for the few it benefits. It doesn’t benefit a number of Floridians,” says Robert Weissert of the nonpartisan Florida TaxWatch. “It really hurts local governments and will reduce the services you see and could lead to a tax increase.”

Weissert and others caution that Amendment 1 will deal a blow to local tax bases, forcing cities and counties to raise taxes elsewhere. In addition, Weissert points out than nearly half of all Florida residents will not be eligible for the tax break because they are renters or because of the value of their home.

“If we look back at the last time we raised the homestead exemption, and we see what local communities did, they simply raised taxes in other areas,” says Weissert.

“Amendment 1 would not provide any relief to the majority of property owners in our state,” Floridians for Tax Fairness Campaign Chairman Joseph Pennisi said in a news release. “Tax breaks to benefit the wealthiest homeowners shift even more of the burden for essential government services like public safety onto lower and middle income homeowners, and renters who can’t afford to own a home.”

In a series of talking points, the Florida League of Cities wrote of Amendment 1, “Florida's property tax system is a complicated mess and Amendment 1 makes it worse.”

Even the state’s own assessment of the amendment found troubling news for local governments, noting that, “staff estimates that if voters approve the proposed constitutional amendment, the impact to non-school local government property taxes in Fiscal Year 2019-20 (the first year of implementation) will be approximately -$645 million, assuming current tax rates.”

Amendment 1 was added to the November ballot by the Florida Legislature.  Amendments must garner at least 60 percent of the vote to pass.