One of the GOP's top tax experts is under investigation for her own homestead tax exemption.
The Pulp has learned that the Broward Property Appraisers Office is investigating the homestead exemption on a Fort Lauderdale home owned jointly by two Tallahassee heavyweights: Lobbyist David Ericks and star Republican budgetmeister Donna Arduin.
The one-time couple bought the house on a canal with ocean access in the Gill Isles neighborhood for $720,000 in 2005. Ericks already owned a house in Tallahassee with a homestead exemption, so Arduin, who has served as budget/finance director for Florida and California under governors Jeb Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger, filed for the exemption on the Gill Isles home.
The question: Does Arduin actually reside there while benefitting from the $50,000 homestead tax exemption?
Arduin's office at the firm of Arduin, Laffer & Moore is located in Tallahassee (and yes, that's Arthur Laffer, the somewhat infamous supply-side economist who held great sway in the Reagan Administration).
Arduin conceded during a phone call today that she doesn't spend very much time in Fort Lauderdale due to traveling but says the home remains her primary residence. She said she was traveling today to Austin, where she is working withTexas Gov. Rick Perry.
"I haven't rented it out or anything," said Arduin, adding that she is registerd to vote in Broward County. "There's no requirement that you spend time in the house so long you don't rent it out."
Actually residence is a requirement under the law for the homestead exemption, though the term is loosely defined. Arduin says it is, indeed, her primary residence. "I still have my pool guy, my lawn guy, my house cleaner," she said. "My clothes are there."
She said the last time she spent the night in the home was about two weeks ago. Much of her work during the past few years has been Capitol-based. In 2006 she landed a $10,000 a month contract to work in the Florida House with House Speaker Marco Rubio, a job that lasted at least through the spring of 2008. She said she is also doing work for the Florida Economic Development Committee. Arduin also serves on the state's Property Tax Reform Committee (where she lists her home as Fort Lauderdale). Her cell phone is in the 850 area code. She's also been busy in Orlando where her clients include the University of Central Florida.
Arduin, an ultra-conservative known for the slashing of social services like Medicaid from state budgets, and Ericks were a couple for years, and a 2006 feature story on Arduin indicated she was staying then at Ericks' house in Tallahassee. Arduin and Ericks, who also own a vacation house in Michigan together, have since split up. "We remain good friends and business partners in real estate," she said.