TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The Florida House continued moving forward Monday with a proposal that would provide an increased homestead property-tax exemption for classroom teachers, members of the military and first responders who have toiled through the coronavirus pandemic.
The House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee unanimously approved two linked proposals (HJR 1 and HB 1563), filed by Rep. Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City, that would provide the additional exemption and, as a result, reduce non-school tax revenue by more than $90 million a year.
“It’s very important for us in Florida to continue to make Florida more affordable for these individuals,” Tomkow said.
Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, D-Maitland, expressed concern that many people in the targeted professions who live in rental properties wouldn’t benefit, while people with homes valued at $1 million or more would get tax breaks.
“I’m going to be up on (voting for) the bill today because I don’t want to look like I’m not supporting first responders and teachers, and they need support,” Goff-Marcil said. “I’m not sure this is where they should be getting it. They should be getting it in their salaries, so they can afford to buy houses.”
Currently, homeowners can qualify for a homestead tax exemption on the first $25,000 of the appraised value of the property. They also can qualify for a $25,000 homestead exemption on the value between $50,000 and $75,000. Any higher property value is taxable.
The exemption for the value between $50,000 and $75,000 doesn’t apply to property taxes collected for school districts, and neither would Tomkow’s proposal.
Under the proposal, residents could receive an additional $50,000 exemption if the owner is a classroom teacher, law enforcement officer, correctional officer, firefighter, child-welfare services professional, or active in the U.S. armed forces or the Florida National Guard. The exemption would apply to the property’s value between $100,000 and $150,000.
The proposal would be expected to affect about 413,000 Floridians, including 247,000 public- and private-school teachers.
If lawmakers pass the proposal during the legislative session that will end next month, the measure would need voter approval during the November elections.
State economists predict that, if the proposal is ultimately approved by voters, non-school property tax revenues would take a $80.9 million hit in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, with the annual savings for homeowners reaching $93.6 million by the 2026-2027 fiscal year.
Bob McKee, a Florida Association of Counties lobbyist, said the proposal would shift the tax burden to non-homeowners, businesses and “even to some within those very professions who are receiving the exemption, if those professionals rent.”
Tomkow’s proposal needs approval from the House State Affairs Committee before it could go to the full House. A similar Senate proposal (SJR 1746 and SB 1748) awaits an appearance before the Finance & Tax Committee.
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