Proctor: 60 percent is hard to get

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  • | 12:00 p.m. January 14, 2008
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by Michele Newbern Gillis

Staff Writer

State Rep. Bill Proctor doesn’t expect the property tax amendment to pass and that might not be all bad.

“It’s going to be very difficult to hit a 60 percent passage rate on any amendment,” said Proctor. “What I would like to leave you with on this amendment is that it is not an answer to our property tax reform.”

The referendum needs a 60 percent vote to pass on Jan. 29.

So the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors’ Ponte Vedra Council invited Proctor, who represents parts of Clay, Flagler and St. Johns counties, to their holiday luncheon at the Sawgrass Beach Club last month to get his take on the topic.

If passed, the property tax reform amendment would offer Florida homeowners double their current homestead exemption; a 10 percent cap on assessment increases of non-homestead properties, a $25,000 tax exemption for small business personal property and the ability to transfer current exemptions to a new home.

“I want to begin by suggesting to you that the property tax problem is not so much a Democrat or Republican problem as it is a South Florida and a North Florida problem,” said Proctor. “More and more of our problems are becoming that way. If you get into insurance, it’s the same. If you get into water management, it’s the same. It’s as if we are going to have North Dakota and South Dakota in time. The approaches are different from those in the northern and southern part of the state.”

He said that people and most of the county commissioners in his district feel that the property tax cuts were not as severe as they had anticipated, but they were not disappointed. Even though they didn’t get a big reduction, they did get some protection from tax increases in the future.

But, he said, people in South Florida feel that nothing was done at all.

“There is an amendment gaining ground there to put a 3 percent cap on everything including assessed and not assessed properties,” he said. “That may be on the ballot in November depending on whether they can get the language through the courts and enough signatures.”

Proctor went on to discuss the upcoming vote.

“Let’s talk about the amendment that you and your clients will be voting on,” he said. “I’m not going to try and sell you the amendment or persuade you to vote for it or against it.

“The portability amendment is probably the one you are most interested in. The portability amendment simply says if you have the Save Our Homes benefit and you have a $400,000 home, you have a $100,000 cap on your assessment from Save Our Homes. If you move to a higher priced home, you can take the $100,000 with you. If you move to a lower priced home, you can take the percentage of the price with you.”

Proctor made a point of mentioning that the portability amendment is retroactive for two years after it passes.

“I think the portability part is probably the best part of the amendment,” he said.

Proctor also touched on insurance, water management and health care problems.

“As far as the types of problems that I am discussing with you, people want simple solutions,” he said. “If we pistol-whipped insurance companies enough, they’ll all behave and they’ll cut their rates below what is actuarially sound and the people in Idaho won’t object if they take their capital and give to Florida so we can live in Key West.

“That simple solution isn’t going to work.

“We are going to have to work at it slowly, logically and confront the realities that while pistol-whipping insurance companies is politically sound, it doesn’t solve the problem. It just drives them further out of the state and when they do that, we insure ourselves.

“And that’s what we are doing. (The state-owned) Citizens Insurance has $460 billion of insurance coverage in the state of Florida and $57 billion dollars in capital.”