September 21, 2018

Florida's Supermajority Proposal Would Put Struggling Families, Communities of Color and Rural Counties at Risk

New Florida Policy Institute report shows that supermajority requirement would lock in current inequities in the tax system and prevent investment in schools, infrastructure and disaster preparedness

Report comes on the heels of new findings that Florida’s supermajority proposal would deepen K-12 funding crisis

LAKE MARY, FL – Florida’s upside-down tax structure and lack of adequate investment in families would only be made worse under a supermajority requirement. These are the findings of Not so Super: Florida’s Supermajority Proposal Endangers Economic Growth and Thriving Communities, a new report from the Florida Policy Institute (FPI).

A question on the November ballot would amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds vote of the Florida House of Representatives and Senate to approve any new revenue, states tax or state fee.

“Under the proposed supermajority rule, Florida lawmakers would be stripped of their ability to actively invest in residents and in those things that drive widespread prosperity,” said Joseph F. Pennisi, executive director of FPI. “We’ve seen this happen in other states with similar requirements already in place, like Oklahoma, where residents faced severe cuts to K-12 education and health care as legislators struggled to reach the vote threshold.”

According to FPI, the supermajority proposal would, if enacted:

  • Make it more difficult to fix Florida’s current tax system, which places the heaviest load on families with the least ability to pay and disproportionately burdens communities of color. The report notes that non-elderly families with incomes under $17,000 pay an average of almost 13 percent of their income on state and local taxes, while those with incomes of roughly $500,000 or more pay about 2 percent of their income in taxes. Additionally, FPI points out that more than a quarter of African-American Floridians have incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $24,300/year for a family of four in 2016 dollars, as well as more than 20 percent of Hispanic and American Indian Floridians, compared to just over 10 percent of white Floridians.
  • Be particularly harmful for rural counties and schools, since Florida supports a higher proportion of their budgets than those of other parts of the state. In 2015, state funding accounted for 26 percent of non-metropolitan county budgets, on average, compared to just 10 percent of budgets in metropolitan counties. The state provides about 60 percent of revenue for PreK-12 education in Florida, notes FPI, with almost three-quarters of districts receiving over half of their funding from the state. Additionally, the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that in 2015, Florida spent 23 percent less in state and local funding per student than it did before the recession, after adjusting for inflation. This is the second deepest cut of any state, a situation that would be made worse under a supermajority requirement.
  • Limit the state’s ability to boost investments in things that allow businesses to thrive. Florida is already far behind a majority of states on numerous rankings that measure the health and well-being of residents. As an example, FPI points to the Sunshine State’s overall ranking of 48th in the nation on the Commonwealth Fund’s health systems scorecard. Florida scored in the bottom quartile on numerous indicators, including “uninsured adults and children” and “admissions for pediatric asthma.”
  • Limit lawmakers’ options during emergencies. A small group of lawmakers looking for concessions would be able to hold a disaster response or other time-sensitive legislation hostage under Florida’s supermajority requirement.
  • Make it much more difficult for lawmakers to reform or eliminate wasteful or ineffective tax breaks. A recent FPI report on the state’s “silent spending,” or spending through the tax code in the form of exemptions, credits and loopholes, found that Florida will lose $20 billion to such expenditures in Fiscal Year 2019.
  • Vastly increase the power of special interests. Wealthy interests and their lobbyists, as FPI points out, would have to sway only a few legislators to stop much-needed revenue bills.

“We need to make it easier, not harder, for the state to help working families with better schools, safer communities and more affordable health care,” added Pennisi.

The Florida Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting widespread prosperity through timely, thoughtful and objective analysis of state policy issues affecting economic opportunity.

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