August 22, 2018

Florida's Higher Education Funding at Risk Under Amendment 5

States with supermajority requirements have seen reduced per-student spending

LAKE MARY, FLAs hundreds of thousands of students begin a new semester at Florida colleges and universities, an alarming new report from the nonpartisan Florida Policy Institute shows that Amendment 5 would lock in budget cuts made after the Great Recession and likely require deep cuts to public services, like higher education, in the wake of another fiscal crisis.

The State University System, Florida College System and school districts’ technical centers deliver 70 percent of associate and bachelor’s degrees and industry and professional certifications in Florida, based on Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC) data.

On November 6, voters in Florida will decide on a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds (supermajority) vote of the state Legislature to raise state revenues, taxes and fees and eliminate tax breaks and loopholes.

Many states saddled with supermajority requirements similar to Amendment 5 were unable to overcome the vote threshold needed to raise revenue to return to pre-recession levels. The U.S. saw an average increase of 5.8 percent in per-student spending from Fiscal Years 2007-17. The three states with the deepest per-student cuts, adjusted for inflation, are supermajority states: Missouri (-17.2 percent), Louisiana (-16.7 percent) and Nevada (-14 percent). Florida cut spending per student by 9.3 percent during the same time period. Under Amendment 5, Florida is likely to see further cuts to higher education in the wake of the next economic crisis.

“As more and more jobs require a postsecondary degree or certificate, it’s mind-boggling that state lawmakers put a measure on the November ballot that would jeopardize funding for our state’s universities, college system and technical schools,” said Joseph F. Pennisi, executive director of the Institute. “Higher education helps residents earn higher wages, which in turn boosts local economies. Amendment 5 would prioritize the wants of wealthy special interests and corporations over the livelihood of residents.”

The brief also notes that:

  • Meeting the Florida HECC goal of increasing the share of working-aged residents with a high-quality degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025 would be hampered by a supermajority requirement, as lawmakers would struggle to reach the two-thirds vote threshold needed for revenue bills.
  • States with supermajority requirements have seen downgraded bond ratings and higher borrowing costs, which puts higher education construction and expansion at risk.

The Institute’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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