The Republican-ruled House and Senate are proposing $1 billion in public school cuts, reductions in health and social service programs, and plenty more tight-fisted spending decisions as they struggle to close an almost $3.8 billion budget gap.
But GOP leaders are poised to spend $400,000 to get a likely popular tax break before voters early on next year’s election calendar.
Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, already tapped as a future House speaker, got his bill advancing a first-time home buyers’ tax break through the House Economic Affairs Committee on Tuesday, in a party-line vote.
Dorworth said the legislation (CS/HB 1053) advancing the tax break to next January’s presidential primary will allow buyers to take advantage of the reduction sooner. If approved by 60 percent of voters, the tax break would take effect in January, as opposed to January 2013, if it was left to be approved by voters in November.
Dorworth’s proposal was approved 10-5, with Democrats opposed. Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, said putting the tax proposal on the early primary ballot wasn’t worth the extra cost — $400,000 for statewide advertising of the proposed constitutional amendment, according to analysts.
Among Democrats, there also was an undercurrent that the GOP was looking to get the tax-cutting approved early in an election year, to give them another voter-friendly issue to campaign on.
Dorworth refused to take the bait. “We think it belongs in a January or February vote,” he said.
Democrats, though, may still get the final say on this one. Dorworth needs approval of three-fourths of the House and Senate to get the tax measure on the presidential primary ballot. While vastly outnumbered, Democrats still have enough votes to keep the ruling party from reaching that high bar.
GOP leaders haven’t settled yet on whether to delay the presidential primary by a month to comply with Republican National Committee rules that prohibit other states from jumping ahead of early primaries planned for New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada.
The proposed ballot measure is a rewrite of a constitutional proposal barred by the Florida Supreme Court from going before voters last year because of misleading ballot language.
The amendment proposes a tax break for first-time home buyers and lowers the annual cap on assessment increases for businesses, rental properties and vacation homes. The Florida Association of Realtors, a heavy contributor to the state GOP last year, has said the measure would revive home sales and attract new investors to the state.