By Aaron Sharockman
It's become part of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's firewall when confronted with criticism that he isn't conservative enough.
"I signed the largest single tax cut in the history of Florida, a $25 billion tax cut over five years, directed at property tax cuts," Crist said while speaking to a group of Michigan Republicans in September. "My state goes back to 1845; the largest tax cut since 1845 in the Sunshine State."
Crist touts his tax-cutting record over and over, in news releases, political speeches and in the first radio ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.
The line is good politics. But is it true?
The property tax changes proposed by Crist and the Legislature in early 2007 were sold as the antidote to citizens' complaints that local government spending had spiraled out of control. Crist famously predicted taxes would "drop like a rock."
On June 21, 2007, the governor signed House bills 1B and 5B — the two-pronged tax package.
House Bill 1B required local governments to reduce their property tax rates to 2006 levels and mandated deeper cuts based on how much a local government collected in property tax dollars. The reported savings to taxpayers: $15.6 billion over five years.
House Bill 5B, meanwhile, let voters consider further property tax changes. Also known as Amendment 1, the changes — which included an additional homestead benefit, limited property value increases for non-homesteaded property and created portability for Save Our Homes — were approved by voters in January 2008. The savings: $9.3 billion over five years.
Combined, that's the $25 billion Crist is talking about.
We have to address two questions to see if Crist's claim is right: Are the estimates correct? And do they constitute the largest state tax cut ever?
Caution: The following information is considered highly wonky....(Remainder.)