Senior Tax Exemption Amendment: Easing the Financial Burden on Low-Income Elderly
Around the State
Beginning Saturday, Floridians will have the opportunity to weigh in on a ballot measure that would substantially ease the homestead tax burden on low-income seniors, while critics warn the measure would put a greater financial strain on everyone else or result in cuts to local government services.
Amendment 11 – the Florida Senior Homestead Tax Exemption Amendment – would alter Article VII, Section 6 of the state Constitution so as to allow the Florida Legislature to empower county and city governments to grant a special homestead exemption to low-income senior citizens.
The way the Constitution is currently written, the Legislature may (and in fact does) allow counties and cities to establish homestead exemptions of up to $50,000 to seniors who are 65 years of age or older and whose annual income does not exceed $27,030. This is in addition to the $50,000 in exemptions already enjoyed by all Florida homeowners.
If passed by 60 percent of the voters, and subsequently acted upon by the Legislature, Amendment 11 would allow local governments to grant a 100 percent homestead exemption to those same low-income seniors, so long as their home is not valued at more than $250,000.
“We’re talking about folks who have great difficulty making ends meet in a very tough economy -- not just now, but overall – and on very fixed income,” says Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, in an interview with Sunshine State News. “We [in the Legislature] wanted to make sure these citizens can stay in their homes in their senior years and have the ability to tend to their other needs.”
The bipartisan ballot measure passed both the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives unanimously, but not ev/eryone approves. According to Progress Florida, a leading leftist think tank in the state, organizations opposing Amendment 11 include the Florida Association of Retired Americans, the Florida Consumer Action Network, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
But perhaps the amendment’s most outspoken opponent is the League of Women Voters of Florida.
“[Our] position is that there should be no increase or extension of homestead exemption,” reads a statement on the League’s website. “In addition to concerns that this lost revenue could result in cuts to essential services, such as education, transportation and public safety, the League’s position has always been that no tax sources or revenues should be specified, limited, exempted or prohibited in the Constitution."
The League also warns that Amendment 11, “if passed and enacted universally throughout the state, would cost local governments $27.8 million over the first three years of implementation.”
Haridopolos counters that that the proposed exemptions, whose implementation would be at the discretion of local governments themselves, might actually stimulate local economies, as the tax breaks have the potential to attract seniors – a key Florida demographic – to reside and do business in tax-friendly environs.
“This amendment is about protecting people in their senior years, people who are very helpful to growing our economy,” he tells the News. “I’m very supportive of a flat income tax rates; but as far as [property taxes] are concerned, in Florida we believe your home is your castle, and the last thing we want to do is tax low-income seniors out of their homes.”
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (954) 235-9116.