October 23, 2018

Amendment 5 Would Lock in the Regressive Policies and Abysmal Funding Levels that Perpetuate Inequality

LAKE MARY, FL – Florida’s unfair tax system, which forces low-income residents to contribute the most as a share of their household incomes, along with the state’s worst-in-the-nation per-person investment in public services, would be locked in under Amendment 5. In a new policy brief, the Florida Policy Institute (FPI) examines how struggling families and communities of color would be negatively impacted by the proposed amendment.

Amendment 5, one of the measures on this year’s general elections ballot, would require a two-thirds (supermajority) vote of the state Legislature to raise revenue, state taxes and state fees or eliminate tax exemptions and loopholes. This would empower a “super-minority” of concession-seeking legislators to block bills that invest in families and make it nearly impossible to remove tax breaks that only benefit wealthy special interests.

Several factors contribute to Florida’s inequality, according to FPI:

  • Families with household incomes below $18,700 pay the highest percentage of their incomes in taxes (12.7 percent), while families with incomes exceeding $548,700 pay the lowest percentage (2.3 percent), according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s recent analysis.
  • Communities of color, who face significant barriers to economic mobility — limited access to employment because of discriminatory hiring practices, for example — are disproportionately affected by Florida’s upside-down tax system. Twenty-seven percent of African Americans and 21 percent of Latinos in Florida have household incomes below $18,700.
  • State lawmakers’ continued underinvestment in essential public services — things like PreK-12 education, higher education, health care, affordable housing and mental health — perpetuates Florida’s growing inequality. For example, many families are one serious illness away from becoming financially unstable, yet Florida’s major health care services program, Medicaid, is one of the most restrictive in the nation.
  • The state relies heavily on sales and excise taxes, which make up 51 percent of total revenue. This disproportionately affects lower-income residents, since they have to spend a greater share of household income on everyday goods.

“When Florida residents have access to great public schools, affordable health care and modernized, safe roads and bridges, everyone benefits,” said Sadaf Knight, interim co-executive director of FPI. “Sadly, this is far from the current state of affairs in Florida. Our lawmakers would not be able to mitigate Florida’s rising inequality and fix insufficient funding levels under Amendment 5, as it would prevent any meaningful investment in those areas of the budget that have been shortchanged.”

“New Florida Majority opposes Amendment 5 on the basis that the needs of everyday Floridians could never be met if Amendment 5 were to pass,” said Dwight Bullard, former member of the Florida Senate and political director of the New Florida Majority. “Needs like health care, education, environmental cleanup and criminal justice reform can only be accomplished by a legislature willing to commit resources to fixing antiquated infrastructure and putting forward bold solutions. Amendment 5 would undermine the ability to make those changes a reality.”

“We fear that this Amendment will negatively impact our low-wealth clients who already pay a disproportionately higher percentage of taxes, while wealthier families pay a smaller fraction of their income,” said Aidil Oscariz, vice president of policy and advocacy at Catalyst Miami. “It would exacerbate the power imbalance, making upward mobility for our clients even harder and increasing the racial wealth gap even more. What we need are more equitable tax policies that benefit hardworking, underpaid Floridians.”

FPI’s mission is to advance state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

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