Grassroots effort kills amendment to increase homestead exemption

City, counties argued that tax cut for homeowners would cost in other ways

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Amendment 1, which would have increased the homestead exemption for homeowners whose houses are worth at least $125,000, was the only one of a dozen amendments on the Florida ballot to fall short.

The ballot measure got just over 58 percent of the vote, 2 percent shy of the amount needed to make it a part of the Florida Constitution.

It was the only amendment out of a dozen on the ballot that failed, largely because of a grassroots effort by cities and counties that feared it would cut funding to local governments.

Statewide, the amendment would have reduced local revenues by $750 million.

Greg Haire was one of more than 4.5 million Floridians who voted for Amendment 1, even though it would not have helped him in the house he lives in currently.

“Property owners need all the breaks they can get," Haire said.

The amendment would have given an additional $25,000 homestead exemption to homes with a taxable value of $125,000 or higher.

“We had more than 400 cities (participate), which results in thousands of city officials singing the same song," said Jenna Tala, with the Florida League of Cities. "Amendment 1 was clearly a tax shift, and voters saw that.” 

Florida realtors backed the amendment, but Florida TaxWatch released a study that said the proposal will likely increase taxes for many Floridians. 

TaxWatch President Dominic Colabro said local governments would have to find ways to make up for lost revenue through increasing taxes or cutting services.

Local governments successfully argued that three out of four homeowners would pay more if Amendment 1 passed.

“The money has got to come from somewhere, so if you are going to reduce somebody’s taxes, you’ve got to make it up somewhere else,"  former Florida Association of Counties president Bryan Desloge said. "And that somewhere else was going to be the low-income people. It was going to be the renters. It was going to be the commercial property owners.”

While millions were spent unsuccessfully fighting other amendments, Amendment 1's defeat was proof that money doesn’t always matter to the outcome of something on the ballot.

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