Apr 10, 2008

Watch Out for Charlie Crist

At the risk of being too political, there is something that is really bugging me lately.

For those of you reading this that live in Florida, you'll figure this all out quickly.  For those in other states, you may not care.  But you should still read this because I guarantee that your state is going to make stupid choices like this soon.  As you probably know, a state takes in various taxes from its citizens.  This helps to fund the budget for the state.  Now, for larger states (like Florida), the budget is bigger than most countries.  That is what happens when so many people move to your state like flies on a fresh carcass.  

So, the state has various taxes - property, sales, vehicle.  Most states have a state income tax.  Florida does not, so that means that it has to rely even more on taxes to fill its coffers.  So, if you were to remove or cut a particular tax, that would cut a large amount of money out of the budget.  What is the next step?  Things that the budget funds get cut.  And I'm sure that there are tons of personal ego projects that the legislature and governor have crammed into the budget.  So what actually gets cut is important stuff.  This is how it happens in our personal budgets, right?  If you stop getting income, you have to cut expenses.

Well, at the primary election, we in Florida also had to vote on Amendment One.  It was personally proposed and shepherded by our Governor Charlie Crist.  Up until this point, property tax in Florida was handled thusly:
  • When you bought a house, your house was appraised and you were levied a tax depending on area of town, price of house, etc.  Let's just say this figure was $3600 a year - which is a common figure in the Orlando area.
  • Next year, your tax was only legally allowed to go up 3%.  That is the most if could ever go up.  So your tax would be $3708.  This happens each year.  $3819.  $3933.  And so on.
  • However, when you moved, your new home was subject to the current tax rates.  
  • This caused problems for especially the elderly, who would live in a home for 30 years and still be paying taxes based on when that law first was passed.  Then they would get a smaller place and pay twice in taxes.
Crist's proposal was that you would now be able to take your 3% with you.  So your new home would only be able to have your tax raise 3% - even if the house value was higher than what you were in.

Sounds great, right?  If you are a homeowner you would love this.  You would pretty much lock in your tax rates on the first home you bought.  (Of course, with property values nosediving, it doesn't sound so great now.)  However, as the vote neared, I began to notice something as I thought on this issue.  Just about every public service group (Police, firefighters, teachers) were fighting the issue.  Why?  Well, think about it.  When that Amendment passed, the legislature would find itself with a shortage.  And we all know the first thing they are going after.

Crist was confronted with this and waved his arms and squawked, "No no no people.  I will not let a single public service get hurt by this."  The media helped Crist by trying to paint this as a home owner vs home renter issue - which never made any sense.  I voted No for several reasons.
  • I don't believe that legislative issues like this should be run through making Amedments.  It is a fact that in Florida it is easier to pass an Amendment than a bill.  So this was a way to circumvent the legislature - who already had shot this proposal down.
  • If this passed, the state would know that they would only have one shot to nail a homeowner with a high tax rate - on their first home.  How much you want to bet that tax rates are going to skyrocket on new homes?  That $3600 will be $6000 before you know it.  (Doesn't sound like much?  That adds $200 a month to your mortgage!)
  • I knew that the services would get whacked.  I've watched politics enough to know they are ALWAYS the first thing that gets hurt - regardless of Crist's thoughts.
Turns out I was part of the 29% minority as the Amendment sailed through.  So what happened?  The legislature is working on the budget right now.  And they immediately told every state-funded service to slash their budgets.  The biggest hit?  Schools.  Orange County Schools were told to cut $70 MILLION out of their budget!  (jaw drops)  So, the people of the state took this into their own hands and just shot their kids in the foot.  The new teacher hires in the state have been cut in half.  And road repair, emergency services, etc etc all took hits too.

Way to go Governor Crist!  Of course, people are starting to get angry.  Florida is the worst hit by the subprime fiasco, with Orlando in the top 10 cities in America for foreclosures.  (I heard it was #1 at one point.)  And now these people realize that schools just got decimated by the budget cuts.  Crist's popularity is the lowest since he took office.  And his solution to all of this?  You ready?  No seriously, this is how proposal.  He wants to legalize gambling.  Not just lottery, which we have had for 20 years.  He wants to legalize full-scale gambling.  Awesome.  Yes, my friends, this is the man who was personally hand-picked to replace Jeb Bush (who was a GREAT governor - I don't care what his last name was).  Charlie Crist, defender of the conservative moral right.  

Oh it gets better.  You want to know who is high up on the short list for Republican Vice President list?  That's right.  Charlie Crist.  So those of you out of state just went back and re-read this post?  Charlie Crist is being considered for the Vice Presidential nomination.  That kills me.  In 15 months he has lost 20 percentage points of favor in the third most populous state in the country.  He personally damaged the already struggling education system.  And he mortgages the state's future for the present (on second thought, he sounds like he is perfect for the national stage).  

I will say this right here.  If John McCain picks Charlie Crist, it will have made me 95% sure that I will NOT vote for the GOP ticket.  Unless the Democrats pick a convicted felon.  Actually, I would not at all be surprised that after the completely unexciting Republican offering, and the sure-to-be-contentious Democratic convention, there will be a third party candidate show up and really mess up the whole process.  Seriously.  You watch.  Once the conventions are over, someone will step up and really throw a monkey wrench into everything.  

***This post was not sponsored by the Republican Party, Democratic Party, Green Party, or Bachelor party.  I am David Staples, and I approved this message.

2 comments:

Benji said...

David,

I too was in the minority in voting No on this, but mainly for the amendment being so poorly prepared for the future (as alluded to regarding it not being a bill but something for the state constitution).

I am for lowering taxes, and the concept would help everyone, including renters (the landlords could lower rates because of less taxes). But, when this was first discussed the talk was of slashing thousands of dollars of the taxes. Then when things actually were put on paper, the savings are less than $300 for the average homeowner. Is that savings worth cutting police, fire, and schools??? Why can't they make cuts on the salaries of lawmakers?

Benji

P.S. - David, do you still use your old yahoo account or do you have a new email? I recently sent you a few messages but I did not know if you have changed addresses (sorry to post personal stuff on your blog).

Erin said...

Thanks for posting this, David. I have not been keeping up with my Florida politics! I will spread the word up here!!