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Health Care on Your Own

October 31st, 2007 by flanews

A new study coming out Thursday shows sobering numbers when it comes to Floridians without health insurance. Currently, 1 out of 5 people in the state have no insurance. And the state ranks 46th out of 50 in the percentage of workers that have insurance paid by their employer. As Chris Casquejo tells us, small businesses are faced with the difficult choice of insuring their workers or going out of business.

Hear it here: Health Care on Your Own

The lunch hour at Loopers Sub Shop brings a big rush. Owner Ralph Ricardo has 10 workers.
But he cant give them health insurance, or hed go out of business.

Even if I was to pay for half of it and the employees paid for half of it, they would lose their salary because they get paid so low here,” Ricardo said. “Working in a sub shop, they wouldnt be able to afford it. I cant afford it.

For workers like Justin Pizza, no health insurance means living on the edge every day.

I definitely have to be more careful. I have to weigh out how sick I am versus how much money I have if I have to go get treated for it, he said.

Floridas Agency for Health Care Administration is looking at ways to help small businesses like this one find affordable health care for workers.

Drawing mainly from college students, Clayt Thompson does not have any problems filling his job openings at his packaging store.

College students need flexibility more than they need the insurance programs because their parents have that, Thompson said.

But for sub shop owner Ralph Ricardo, having no health insurance for workers comes at a price.

I lose employees probably every 3 or 4 months. High turnover, he said.

So until he finds affordable health care, hell always be looking for new workers.

Florida International Universitys Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy will release the full study on Thursday.

Posted in Health, Insurance, State News | 2 Comments »

Legal Questions to Tax Plan Being Raised

October 31st, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Legal questions are being raised tonight over the new property tax plan
sent to the ballot by lawmakers this week. Mike Vasilinda tells us the
plan was adopted even though the legislature’s own staff warned parts of
the plan could by unconstitutional.

Hear it here: Legal Questions to Tax Plan Raised

The moment state lawmakers approved a new property tax amendment for the ballot,

If you are in favor of the motion signify by saying yea shouted the House Speaker from the dias, they opened the door for legal challenges to Floridas save our homes exemption.

In a legal analysis, the legislatures own staff raised constitutional questions over portability Thats the concept of allowing longtime homeowners to move their tax saving to a new home.

If approved by voters, two homeowners who buy identical houses on the same day could be paying vastly different real estate taxes.

Harvey Bennett of Florida Taxwatch says that isnt right, doesnt fix current inequities, and opens the door to challenge. It could be construed as having two separate, distinct unequal tax systems.

The governors office believes the naysayers are out of touch. George Lemieux is the Governors Chief of Staff It does not treat out-of-state folks any different than it treats in-state folks. What it does is prefers homesteaders, whether theyre in-state or out-of-state. So we believe its constitutional. says Lemieux

But Floridas Teachers union says not so fast. Challenging the new exemption might be just one of the ways to oppose it. Thats always a possibility says FEA President Andy Ford. We have had preliminary conversations with a variety of people and our options are still open at this point.

The stakes are high. In a worst case scenario, homeowners could end up paying back any money theyve saved from the Save our Homes Exemption, if its ever declared unconstitutional.

Florida Democrats are split on the Tax proposal. Rep. Dan Gelber, the House minority leaders says: “It is ironic that a day after the legislature voted to fund tax relief with a near $3 billion cut to public education, a report comes to light announcing that only South Carolina has a higher high school dropout rate than Florida. Gelber was a no vote on the plan.

Posted in Amendments, Charlie Crist, Children, Education, Legislature, Politics, Property Taxes, State Budget | 1 Comment »

Popular vs. Sound Policy?

October 31st, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Several newspapers around the state are pouring cold water on the property tax plan passed by lawmakers and championed by Governor Charlie Crist. Florida Taxwatch, a non profit government watchdog is also piling on, saying the plan passed Monday does little to help those who need help the most. Harvey Bennett of Taxwatch says if there was real relief, it would have gone to renters, second home owners, and businesses.

The legislature is trying to do something to save face. Theyre trying to do something to appeal to the voters of the state, the homeowners who have somewhat of a problem in the property tax system but a very minor problem compared to the majority of property owners who are really suffering under our two separate but unequal property tax systems that we have in Florida.

So theyre trying to be popular?

Theyre trying to be popular. And popular is not necessarily right.

Taxwatch consistently told lawmakers during the debate that they were hitting the wrong target, but their advice fell on deaf ears.

Posted in Amendments, Charlie Crist, Children, Education, Legislature, Property Taxes, State News | 1 Comment »

Teachers Lash Out

October 31st, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Floridas Teachers Union is weighing its options on the new tax plan. Florida Education Association President Andy Ford says the teachers know they dont like it, but they arent sure what they will do next. At an afternoon news conference, Ford told reporters We have consistently stated that we wanted our states leaders to keep their word and craft a plan that holds public education harmless. The plan passed earlier this week does not hold public education harmless. It cuts, depending on various estimates, an amount ranging from 1.8 billion dollars to 3 billion dollars from public schools over the next 5 years.

The teachers are holding a meeting in mid November with their governing board to discuss options. They are also conducting a poll and talking with other groups who dont like the plan.

Posted in Amendments, Charlie Crist, Education, Legislature, Property Taxes | No Comments »

Teachers React to Tax Plan

October 31st, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Hear Complete News Conference

The Florida Education Association is lashing out at the tax proposal sent to the ballot by lawmakers. They don’t like it but don’t know what they will do next. Hear FEA President Andy Ford’s raw news conference.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Property Tax Campaign Begins

October 30th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Three months from today, voters will go to the polls to decide if they want to lower their property taxes. The plan was passed yesterday by the state legislature and will appear on the January 29th ballot. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, a number of groups may be lining up to tell you lowering your taxes may not be such a good idea.

Hear it here: Property Tax Campaign Begins

For Charlie Crist, Tuesday was day one in the campaign to convince voters the property tax cuts approved by legislators are a good idea.

“Well campaign like the dickens to make sure that they understand the truth of whats happened here, how good this will be for them, how good this will be for Florida families, ” says Crist.

Florida schools stand to lose an estimated 2.7 billion dollars over the next five years if the amendment passes. So one of the first calls the governor made was here..to the President of the Florida Education Association. “I talked to them, pleaded with them to hear us out before they launch.”

Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Association, which represents teachers, says you should be worried about cuts if the amendment passes. “Its going to have an impact on programs and classes. It may have an impact on jobs”.

In addition to the teachers, there are four likely opponents to the amendment: the firefighters, the police unions, the cities and the counties. On the other side of the debate: Realtors…who already said they would spend up to a million dollars to pass an amendment they hope jump starts sales.

It is an argument Charlie Crist will use to sell the amendment to voters.

“This is going to fire up Floridas economy. This economic engine that has been held back, ” says the Governor.

In the end the amendment may prove to be too popular to oppose…or too expensive.

The tax cut is estimated to be about 12 billion dollars. It comes on top of a 15 billion dollar cut his past June.

Posted in Amendments, Charlie Crist, Education, Legislature, Politics, Property Taxes | 1 Comment »

State Drops Appeal

October 30th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

The state filed paperwork this afternoon to drop its appeal of the lower court ruling that threw the first property tax amendment off the ballot. Read the paperwork here:

State Drops Appeal

Posted in State News | 2 Comments »

Rental Owners Weigh in on Property Tax Cut Plan

October 30th, 2007 by flanews

In January, voters will decide whether they want to change Floridas property tax law. Part of the plan includes a 10 percent annual limit on property taxes for second homes and businesses. As Chris Casquejo tells us, one rental property owner says the change will help him stay in business.

Hear it here: Rental Owners on Property Tax Cut Plan

Steven Profitt is sprucing up his Tallahassee townhouse with hopes of renting it in December. Since he bought it 2003, hes seen his property taxes go up each year. He believes a 10 percent cap on future increases will help keep him from selling the place.

Ill take any dollar saving any day,” Profitt said. “Im sure anybody would. Whether its 20 dollars, 30 dollars, Ill take any penny saved.

For Steven, what he pays for his mortgage equals what he gets in rent. If he raised the rent, he wouldnt find any takers.

And if he gets the $725 a month hes asking, it will not cover insurance and taxes.

You add on insurance increases over the last few years too, and youre always behind,” he said. “Thats the situation Im at here.

Profitt stood next to Governor Charlie Crist at the Capitol Tuesday morning. Crist is taking the pitch to change property tax laws to voters statewide.

The rental properties help him save money to save for retirement, Gov. Crist said.

Steven Profitt hopes lawmakers are just getting started.

I think this is a step in the right direction and Im proud to be part of it, he said.

And he believes voters will pass the amendment, and help keep homeowners like him in the rental business.

60 percent of voters have to approve the property tax cut amendment on January 29th.

Posted in Amendments, Charlie Crist, Politics, Property Taxes, State News | 1 Comment »

Save Our Homes Challenge?

October 30th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Now that state lawmakers have passed a property tax plan, there are new
concerns the idea of limiting taxes on homesteads could be
unconstitutional. The argument was raised during debate, and today,
reporters asked the governor if he thought the new tax language, it
adopted by voters, could be ruled unconstitutional. He called on his
chief of staff George Lemiux, who answered the question this way:

Its been the position of this office and of our legal council that the
current system of Save Our Homes as well as making it portable, which is
just really taking the current system with you, is constitutional. It
does not treat out-of-state folks any different then it treats in-state
folks. What it does is it prefers homesteaders, whether theyre in-state
or out-of-state. So we believe its constitutional and it will be defended.”

To date, there has been no aggressive court challenge to the
constitutionality of the Save Our Homes provisions, but making the
difference even larger between homestead and non homestead properties
might draw such a challenge.

Posted in Amendments, Business, Charlie Crist, Property Taxes | 1 Comment »

Governor Starts Campaign for Property Tax Amendment

October 30th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

The election is in 90 days and the Governor considers this Day 1 of another campaign. He started in Tallahassee, then went on to Jacksonville, Orlando, and Port St. Lucie. There was another round of thanks for everyone involved again this morning. But the Governor had a lot of other things to say. Hear the morning kickoff here:

Governor Begins Property Tax Campaign

Posted in State News | 13 Comments »

Property Tax Cuts on Way to Ballot

October 29th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida lawmakers have passed a simplified plan to reduce your property
taxes. As Mike Vasilinda reports, the final say will be up to voters in
January.

From beginning…to end, It took the Senate just over three hours to send the house an
ultimatum…pass our property tax plan or get nothing at all. The plan doubles the Homestead Exemption. Senator Jim King of Jacksonville says it is simple and gives homeowners what they want People came and said look, I want a couple things. I want the double homestead. I understand homestead. Ive got one homestead, two is better than one. I want that.

The plan also lets homeowners take tax savings to a new house, and it caps future increases on businesses and second homes at ten percent. Sen. Ronda Storms failed at lowering the cap.

I can go back to my constituents and my small business owners and say, you know, we got something. Its more than half a loaf. says Storms

The impact on schools is uncertain, but local governments and special fire districts say there will be pain. Ron Beasley spent the past weeks trying to keep his Palm Beach unit from being cut.
At this point were going to be seriously looking at whats left to be cut from the budget. Unfortunately I think the final result is going to be personnel. How many, Beasley says, remains to be seen.

Whats happened at the Capitol is just half the battle. The rest is up to voters. Charlie Crist was ecstatic and he predicts voters will say yes. Who doesnt want a property tax cut after all. I mean think about it. Its simpler, which I think is better says Crist.

The January 29th vote will require a 60 percent margin of approval. The plan to let homeowners move and take their homestead exemption with them is retroactive to January 2007.

Posted in Amendments, Business, Charlie Crist, Elections, Legislature, Politics, Property Taxes, State News | No Comments »

Property Tax Cut Amendment Now Heads to Jan. Ballot

October 29th, 2007 by flanews

The Florida Senate won its property tax showdown with the House. Shortly after 7 Monday night, the House voted overwhelmingly to accept the Senate version of a property tax cut package. Voters will decide January 29th if they want those cuts to become law. 60 percent of voters have to approve the measure.

Posted in Amendments, Legislature, Politics, Property Taxes, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Tax Package Being Debated

October 29th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida lawmakers are working against a midnight deadline to pass a property tax reform package. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, a take it or leave it deal is leaving a bad taste in some peoples mouth.

From beginning to end, it took the Senate just over three hours to send the house an ultimatum…pass our property tax plan or get nothing at all.

The plan doubles the Homestead Exemption. Senators say it is simple and it gives homeowners what they want.

People came and said look, I want a couple things, Sen. Jim King said. I want the double homestead. I understand homestead. Ive got one homestead, two is better than one. I want that.

The plan also lets homeowners take tax savings to a new house, and it caps future increases on businesses and second homes at ten percent. Sen. Ronda Storms failed at lowering the cap.

I can go back to my constituents and my small business owners and say, you know, we got something, Storms said. Its more than half a loaf.

The future in the house is anything but certain. House Speaker Marco Rubio doesnt think the plan goes far enough.

It doesnt kick start our economy and I think that was really, at the end of our day, that was our ultimate goal, was to do something that changed the economic environment in Florida, Rubio said. And that just doesnt accomplish it. We missed a golden opportunity.

Charlie Crist was cautiously optimistic.

I think that the Senate has done incredible work, Crist said. I am very encouraged about what I hear as it relates to the House and I am optimistic.

Even if lawmakers agree before their midnight deadline, three out of five voters must also say okay in January.

The plan to let homeowners move and take their homestead exemption with them is retroactive to January 2007.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Legislature, Property Taxes, State News | No Comments »

Homeowners on Property Tax Cut Plans

October 26th, 2007 by flanews

Lawmakers will be back at the capitol Monday morning to work on getting a property tax amendment on the January ballot. The House and Senate bogged down over the Houses proposal to base homestead exemptions on the value of all the homes in a county and to cap business and second home property tax increases at 5 percent a year. As Chris Casquejo tells us, some voters are confused by it all.

Here it here: Homeowners on Property Tax Cut Plans

On Monday, Florida lawmakers will take their final stab at passing a property tax package in time for a January vote. The big issue, whether the House and Senate can agree on a plan to create a Save Our Homes type protection for businesses and second homes. Robert Dodson is skeptical.

I dont think theyre doing what the public wants, Dodson said.

The House and Senate agree on portablity, affordable housing, tangible personal property, working waterfronts and relief for first-time homebuyers.

Theyre getting into these really complicated formulas to ease the tax burden for some, but not for the others,” Dodson continued. “And I dont think thats right. It needs to be an across-the-board percentage cut for everybody.

Mary Pridgeon and her husband own three homes. The retirees pay about $15,000 dollars a year in property taxes. Only the House plan would help the Pridgeons.

I do think second homes and small business properties should be limited,” Pridgeon said. “I know the assessed value has just gone out of sight.

As lawmakers come dangerously close to their deadline for getting a property tax amendment on the January ballot, a new poll shows a growing number of voters are concerned with the issue. The Florida Chamber of Commerce says 39 percent of voters believe property tax relief is a top issue. Thats up 6 percent from February.

Posted in Amendments, Property Taxes, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Poll: Crist Still Very Popular, but Florida Headed in Wrong Direction

October 26th, 2007 by flanews

Governor Charlie Crist continues to enjoy sky-high approval ratings, but a new poll shows a majority of Florida voters dont like the direction the state is heading. The Florida Chamber of Commerce poll found that 79 percent of voters approve of the job the governor is doing. 51 percent believe Florida is heading in the wrong direction, while 32 percent view the future of the state favorably.

Governor Crist has been able to separate himself from the voter frustration on the property tax issue very effectively,” said Kirsten Borman, with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Voters feel that Governor Crist is relating with them on a personal level. He understands the problem of property taxes. However, theyre not connecting him with their frustration with the legislature and with the legislation as it relates to the issue.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce says 39 percent of voters believe property tax relief is a top issue. Thats up 6 percent from February.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Politics, Property Taxes, State News, Voting | No Comments »

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