Thursday, June 14, 2007

I would veto the Rubio property tax disaster

The Rube Goldbergian, patchwork Republican tax reform shell game is shaping up to be a fiscal disaster worse than the property tax crisis that spawned it. We have to fight it. We need to convene a statewide conference of progressives to put together a progressive tax reform initiative for the November 2008 ballot to compete with whatever garbage the Republicans (and dare I say I am worried about what our Democrats) are going to come up with.

The solution to Florida's fiscal crisis is actually very simple, and should be kept so, and need only follow one simple principle: base taxes on people's ability to pay them. That means abolish the property tax and replace it with a progressive state income tax like 43 other states use. And in the coming days I will be blogging about a great model: Ohio.

The current problem of confiscatory property taxation is rooted in the fundamentally flawed and dysfunctional nature of the property tax itself: it is never directly related to people's means to pay it. It eats away at people's income over time (even with the 3% cap) and forces those whose life circumstances change after they have bought a house, in many cases to sell their house and move. That's wrong. It is happening to thousands of Floridians and could happen to any of us next week, month or year: a major illness, a divorce, a layoff or salary cut, especially when the next recession hits.

Our message should be very clear: abolish the property tax. Any discussion of an income tax should always be secondary and quickly turned back to a discussion of the REAL issue: we are proposing, in this order, tax cuts, tax reform and tax fairness while preserving public education and vital local government. I don't want to hear any more talk, especially coming from the Democratic leadership, about how an income tax will never fly in this state. Such talk is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It just takes leadership. If Republican anti-tax states like Utah can enact an income tax, so can we. But its clear that leadership is not going to come from our current Democratic leaderships. That's why we progressives need to step up to the plate and provide that leadership with a statewide conference.

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