- PBC Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits informs about November ballot initiatives
- Marion Frank discusses SCOTUS impact related to Affordable Care Act
The monthly gatherings of the Wellington Chapter of the Palm Beach County Tea Party are known for their educational value. Every month speakers are carefully selected to inform and educate our members and guests about a variety of local and national civic issues as they relate to our core values of fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. Keeping with that tradition, the August meeting was no different.
The August meeting was kicked off by Gina Rascati, one of the Willington Chapter organizers. As always, Gina started off by generously acknowledging the efforts of our dedicated volunteers. Several candidates who are currently running for both local and Federal offices were in attendance. Upon a brief introductions they all were greeted with enthusiasm. The Chapter senior and founding members followed, one by one, with brief leadership updates on the overall state of the National Tea Party as well as the state of affairs in our local Chapter. The key underlying message was that the Tea Party movement is as strong as ever but we must maintain the momentum in order to win back our Country in November. Our success will very much depend on the grass roots support of our volunteers. This November, the Tea Party throughout the United States has undertaken the monumental responsibility of poll watching to ensure that a fair election process is conducted in accordance with procedure. On Election Day, we intend to have the maximum degree of coverage by our volunteer poll watchers all across Palm Beach County. A great number of people already signed up but there is always need for more. Attorney-led poll watcher training session will be scheduled prior to the election in October of 2012. More information will be provided in the weeks to come.
Our main speaker for the evening was Gary Nikolits, the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser. He delivered a highly informative, non partisan presentation in his capacity as the longest serving Elected Constitutional Officer in Palm Beach County. After a brief explanation of the process employed by his office to calculate individual assessed value of every property throughout the County, Mr. Nikolits went on to explain the current ballot initiatives relating to property taxes that Palm Beach County voters will be deciding in November. The first of several amendments, Amendment 2 provides a property tax discount to disabled military veterans with no residency requirement at the time of service.
Amendment 4 consists of three parts. Part 1 seeks to repeal the existing recapture rule that requires the assessed value of each property to be increased by a fixed amount every year even if the market value of the property drops provided that the market value remains greater than its assessed value. Part 2 seeks to reduce the existing cap on assessed property value increases for non-homesteaded properties from 10 to 5%. And last but not least, Part 3 seeks to provide a tax exemption to first time home buyers of up to $140,000 dollars in addition to the existing $50,000 dollar homestead exemption. This is a 5-year benefit that would only be extended to homebuyers who have not owned a property in the County during the last 3 years. The benefit will be gradually decreased at a rate of 20% per year.
Amendment 9 seeks to provide additional tax exemptions on the homesteaded property of surviving spouse of military veteran or first responders that die in the line of duty. This is intended to be a lifetime benefit as long as the surviving spouse does not re-marry. The first responder benefit will be retroactive, while the military benefit will be available only going forward effective January 1st 2013.
Amendment 10, seeks to increase the tangible personal property tax exemption from $25,000 dollars to $50,000 dollars. The tangible personal property tax includes furniture and fixtures owned by small business in Palm Beach County.
Amendment 11 seeks to provide an additional tax exemption to low income seniors who maintain a long term full time residence on their property.
Mr. Nikolits concluded by reminding the audience that exemptions and tax breaks for any particular group do not come without the sacrifice by the rest of tax payers who shoulder the burden of filling the resulting revenue gaps. Additional information and resources may be found on the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s website at www.co.palm-beach.fl.us/papa/
Marion Frank, the National Co-Chair of Docs 4 Patient Care Alliance, was our second speaker of the evening delivering an update on the implications of the Affordable Care Act post the recent SCOTUS decision to uphold the Law as Constitutional under the Congressional taxing power. “The Law, as it’s written, still stands with billions of dollars going towards implementing it…” passionately explained Marion in her opening remarks. At the request of the ranking republican members of the Ways & Means Committee, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) made attempts to determine the cost of implementing this Law to date. The results of the study were simply inconclusive given the massive nature and scope of this entitlement expansion masqueraded as reform.
Chief Justice Roberts, Jr. wrote; “It is not our Job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” Given our current course, it’s painfully clear that November may be the last chance for us to change direction as a Country.
The “mandate” has now officially become a tax, and a burden of any tax payer who may choose not to purchase, regardless of the reason, a health insurance policy starting in January of 2014. Any tax payer who unlike the nearly 50% of Americans that pay no taxes, will be subject to automatic withholding by the IRS if they are due a refund. And with over 16,000 new IRS agents on the beat, redistribution of wealth is becoming our new reality. The new Healthcare Law has many unintended consequences that are likely to have adverse impact. Experts are predicting a doctor shortage over the next several years because of the growing projections in new patient demand for care. The new Law has absolutely no provisions to encourage adding new doctors in order to meet the projected demand levels. Provisions do exist, however, to add nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to cover the projected shortfall of doctors. At the same time, starting in August of 2012, the State of Florida has began to limit the number of nurse practitioner and physician’s assistant wellness visits for Medicaid patients to a maximum of two per month. These cost-cutting tactics amount to nothing other than rationing of care, despite the promises. Rules have also been enacted to revise the drug formulary for Medicaid patients by drastically reducing list of covered medications. Such changes encourage an environment where it becomes much more burdensome for physicians to willingly accept new Medicaid patients. Reimbursement rates of 17 cents on the dollar also help promote a future where Medicaid patients are likely to have difficulties finding the medical care that they need. At the same time, nearly 19% of employers are planning to drop healthcare coverage for their employees. Furthermore, a new medical device tax that’s built into the Law is expected to drastically impact the medical device industry which mostly consists of small business that are not likely to survive the additional squeeze on already low profit margins. Marion concluded by listing a number of practical options that can serve as great low cost alternatives to the Affordable Care Act that can be implemented immediately. Everyone is encouraged to visit the Docs 4 Patient Care web site for additional information at docs4patientcare.org/
The July 2012 meeting of the Wellington Chapter of the Palm Beach County Tea Party was, as always, a very informative gathering and one that remains relevant to our mutual belief in fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. Given the latest developments of this highly charged political season and a monumental victory of Governor Scott Walker over special interests, this month’s meeting gave us an opportunity celebrate our members like Pam Wohlschlegel who were able to contribute to the effort and literally walk the streets of Wisconsin in support of what they consider to be morally right. Thanks to them and others like them, this battle has been won but the war is far from over. A continuous need for dedicated volunteers was loudly and clearly reiterated. As the result of a partnership with Americans For Prosperity, Kathy Salerno, a volunteer field coordinator for the State of Florida spoke briefly underscoring that phone banking is still one of the most effective tools in running a grass roots campaign. Kathy, provided a demonstration of the new phone banking system that has been implemented by her organization and put out a call for volunteers. This system is surprisingly easy to use and designed such that calls can be made in spare time from any phone. The evening highlights consisted of presentations by two guest speakers ; Alan Johnson, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission and Sheryl G. Steckler, Inspector General for Palm Beach County. Both speakers delivered fact filled presentations covering the intricacies surrounding the roles played by both offices within PBC Government.
Director Johnson, a long time Wellington resident, a former Assistant State Attorney, and a life long public servant enthusiastically explained the mission of the Commissioner of Ethics (COE) as to “foster integrity in public services, promote the public’s trust and confidence in that service, and to prevent conflicts between private interests and public duties”. He went on to draw a contrast between the role of the COE and the Inspector General clarifying that the COE is basically a code enforcement office. The Commission is made up of five non political appointees. Commissioners are limited from making political donations or supporting partisan causes for the duration of their term of appointment. Supported by a half dozen regular staff members as well as volunteer advocates the Office has its hands full. It’s tasked with enforcement of the PBC Code of Ethics that is aimed at ensuring that governmental decisions are not based on personal gain. The Office also issues advisory opinions, processes complaints, and provides mandatory ethics training in support of all PBC as well as municipal employees. The Commission’s jurisdiction also includes all elected individuals except independent constitutional officers such as PBC Sheriff and the Property Appraiser among others. The Commission’s Website has been one of the most critical tools in meeting their mission. In 2011 the site has received over 200K visitors in search of services. Everyone is encouraged to visit the site for materials or information at palmbeachcountyethics.com
Director Johnson was promptly followed by an equally charismatic and passionate General Steckler. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) is a PBC chartered office with a broad jurisdiction covering all County and municipal entities with oversight responsibilities at the individual contractor as well as sub-contractor levels. As a contrast to the COE, the OIG is focused making the Government more efficient, accountable, and effective. It conducts audits and investigations aimed at detection and prevention of fraud, waste, mismanagement, and misconduct. The key strength of the Office is its independence which intended to promote public trust and confidence in government. As such the offices’ findings can not be altered. OIG creates and publishes both annual and semiannual reports which are available to the general public through its web site at pbcgov.com/oig/
As stated before, great meeting, thanks to all the tireless effort by our organizers such as Gina Rascati, one of the founding members of the Wellington Chapter. It seems that every month a new bar is set for these gatherings. Please make sure to visit palmbeachcountyteaparty.com to see what’s in store for our next meeting.