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Longest amendment on ballot could have the biggest financial impact

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Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 5:58 pm | Updated: 3:40 pm, Fri Sep 20, 2013.

SARASOTA COUNTY - With a dozen state amendments on the general election ballot this year, some voters may not have realized what they all mean - especially Amendment 4, which is more than 600 words long.

But it's actually the one with the most financial impact; both for many looking to buy real estate and those who pay taxes.

The full text of the amendment is long , complex, and confusing.  We went to New College professor Frank Alcock for some clarity on Amendment 4.  "Collectively it is viewed as a potential stimulus."

Basically it's a property tax break for those not homesteaded, like investors or people who own or want to own a second home.  Also for first time home buyers.  "What it would amount to for new home buyers is you might get anywhere from $500 to $1,000 knocked off your property taxes.  That would be phased out over 5 years."

Supporters like the state's board of realtors and chamber of commerce believe it will attract business to the state by reducing investment tax risks.

Those against it believe the economic impact to local governments in the long run would be drastic.

Sarasota County leaders like Commissioner Nora Patterson say that if passed, they're projecting in three years to lose more than $9 million per year -- and growing from there.  That means the impact is on everyone else.  "If you vote a tax exemption for one group of folks that the probability is strong that other people are going to pay more," says Alcock.

Or services could suffer.

Florida Tax Watch says the amendment would help create more than 19,000 jobs. Patterson says it's not enough. "Over 10 years. That is the important key. That is only 2,000 jobs a year for the entire state which is not much."

The theory is more would be enticed to move in or buy more to make up the lost revenue. But is it really a deciding factor in buying a home? "If in fact your base expands over a number of years in part because of what is in there, then you will recapture some of that. However, it is extremely difficult," says Alcock.

Those against the amendment say many might simply not vote on the issue because it's confusing. Meaning those for it have the advantage.

Alcock says voters need to read up. "It would be impossible in particular for Amendment 4 to come in and try to make sense of it if you have not done a little homework."

The League of Women Voters claims Amendment 4 will cut revenue to local governments and school districts by $1 billion over 3 years.

The Amendments main sponsor is Rep. Chris Dorworth a Republican from Lake Mary. He is a real estate investor and developer.

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