We all know what it takes to create strong communities — things like good roads, schools, health care and public safety — but right now, the Florida Legislature and the Constitution Revision Commission have advanced proposals that would take away the tools we need to make these things possible.
Specifically, they are moving to put on the November ballot a requirement that any new or increased state tax be approved by a supermajority, or two-thirds, vote in each legislative chamber. This idea might make for a good sound bite, but all it will do is make it harder to raise needed revenue in the Sunshine State. Florida’s families, local governments and economy will pay the price as they are starved of the investments that drive economic growth and widespread prosperity.
Florida already spends less per person on public services than any other state, and is one of only seven states in the nation with no personal income tax. Not surprisingly, our state consistently ranks near the bottom among indicators generally tied to health and well-being, like state mental-health investment, rate of insured residents and availability of affordable housing.
The new supermajority rule would apply during good times and bad. When the next economic downturn comes, as it surely will, lawmakers would likely be forced to cut vital public services as they did during the Great Recession.
Economic crises are not the only type of emergency that future legislatures might have to respond to quickly with additional spending. It was only five months ago that Hurricane Irma pummeled Florida; more recently, Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, forcing many families to relocate to the Sunshine State.