For Immediate Release:
June 27, 2011

Media Contact:
Olga Vega

Local and state officials express frustration after "senior freeze" bill fails to pass Florida Legislature

(Miami-Dade County, FL) -- 
Several elected officials representing the South Florida area have continued to advocate for a Florida bill designed to provide financial relief for seniors. Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz has joined State Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, State Representative Jeanette Nuñez, and State Representative Erik Fresen to push for an item that died in the Florida Senate that would have prevented seniors with a limited income from increased property taxes.

Last October, Commissioner Diaz introduced a resolution urging the Florida Legislature to amend the State constitution that would provide a local option to prohibit total increases to property tax bills for seniors who have a homestead property and are considered low to middle income. The item passed the Miami-Dade Commission, but failed to receive enough support at the State level. Senator Diaz de la Portilla sponsored senate bill SJR808, and Rep. Nuñez was the main sponsor of House bill HJR 789, with Rep. Erik Fresen as co-sponsor. However, SJR808 did not pass the Senate despite passing in the House. 

If passed, SJR808 would have provided counties and cities with the local option to freeze the assessed value of homestead property of eligible seniors who are 65 years of age or older, have title to the property, and have an annual household income of less than $26,203 (adjusted for cost of living on an annual basis).

"Senior citizens retire to lower and fixed incomes. Despite the Save our Homes cap, the tax rate increases over many years have lead to significantly higher property taxes for senior citizens, who have lived in their homes for many years," said Senator Diaz de la Portilla. "This proposal would bring relief by 'freezing' or capping the assessed values of our low-income seniors' homes."

"I'm extremely concerned for our local seniors with a limited income. On top of their financial situations, they've had to deal with recent state budget cuts to other social services that assist them with meals and healthcare, not to mention they will not be receiving a COLA increase this year from their Social Security benefits," said Commissioner Diaz. "People here need financial relief and they need it now. I know several of our Florida legislators are adamant about getting this bill passed in the upcoming 2012 Legislative Session, and I look forward to working with them to make that happen."

"I was proud to sponsor House Joint Resolution 789 Homestead Assessment Limitation/Senior Citizens along with Representative Erik Fresen and Senator Diaz de la Portilla. This resolution proposes an amendment to the State Constitution that would prohibit increases in ad valorem tax assessment for our low-income seniors. It will afford these seniors much needed relief from ever-rising property taxes. This bill was unanimously approved in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the resolution did not pass in the Senate. However, I look forward to working on this good bill during the upcoming 2012 Legislative Session," said Rep. Jeanette Nuñez.

"Now, more than ever, government has a duty to provide relief to our most vulnerable and needy citizens. We must look after our seniors and recognize that those who are living on low, fixed incomes should not be choosing between losing their homes due to a property tax bill and food or medicine. I commend Commissioner Diaz for his leadership on this issue and my colleagues Sen. Diaz de la Portilla and Rep. Nuñez for joining us in this legislation," said Rep. Erik Fresen.

For more information, please contact Commissioner Diaz's office at 305-599-1200.


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