The Florida House of Representatives yesterday passed HRJ 7001, a resolution that, if agreed to by the Senate, would put on the November ballot a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote by each house of the Legislature to approve any new state tax or fee, increase an existing state tax or fee or eliminate any state tax expenditure. Adding this provision to the constitution would severely limit Florida’s ability to invest in public education, mental health care, affordable housing, roads and bridges, parks, beaches and workforce training programs.
Florida is already a low-tax state, but it also lags behind in investments that meet the needs of its citizens and drive economic growth to benefit all Floridians. By way of example, Florida ranks 50th in the nation for its level of support for public services.
Any measure that makes it more difficult to change these dynamics is a prescription for a poor future for Florida. Placing such a proposal in the state constitution handcuffs us to bad policy.
All of the above applies in good times. During the next economic downturn, it would be even harder to raise revenues, and make it more likely that state lawmakers consider further cuts to public services. Florida can’t afford to fall even further behind.
The state currently sees billions in foregone revenue each year through tax credits and expenditures. The Florida Policy Institute (FPI) detailed this ‘silent spending,’ which totals $18 billion in Fiscal Year 2017-18, in a recent report. Some of these expenditures date back to the 1940s, and most live on undisturbed by evaluation of what benefits, if any, they may provide to Florida’s economy. The state Legislature should institute a system to periodically examine them, not make it more difficult to sunset those expenditures that do not serve a good public purpose.
For the reasons discussed above, FPI strongly urges the Florida Senate to reject the joint resolution.