Amend­ment 1 would ben­e­fit too few, shift tax bur­den down­ward

The Palm Beach Post - - OPINION: THE DEBATE STARTS HERE -

The con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments on the Novem­ber bal­lot in­clude three pro­posed by the Florida Leg­is­la­ture.

All in­volve tax­a­tion, and — if 60 per­cent of vot­ers ap­prove them — all would make it harder for state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments to raise the money needed for vi­tal ser­vices.

De­spite that, Amend­ment 1 will be tough for many vot­ers with Florida pri­mary res­i­dences to re­sist. If passed, it will in­crease the homestead ex­emp­tion by $25,000.

For Palm Beach County, it means that the own­ers of 230,000 homes could save an av­er­age of $287 on their tax bill, says the Florida As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties (FAC). But only 57 per­cent of Florida home­steads would ben­e­fit from the new ex­emp­tion.

Florida’s cities, coun­ties and other tax­ing author­i­ties would lose $753 mil­lion an­nu­ally start­ing in 2019, the FAC says. Palm Beach County would lose some $63 mil­lion, or 3.1 per­cent of prop­erty tax rev­enue.

Cities and coun­ties will re­act by cut­ting back on ser­vices. Or they’ll in­crease other taxes or fees. In­stead of an over­all tax cut, we’d see a tax shift to lower-in­come home­own­ers, apart­ment dwellers and small busi­nesses.

Vote NO on Amend­ment 1.

Amend­ment 2 con­cerns non-homestead prop­er­ties: va­ca­tion homes, apart­ments and com­mer­cial prop­erty. As of now, the as­sessed value of non-homestead prop­er­ties can be in­creased only 10 per­cent in any given year, ex­cept­ing school dis­trict taxes.

But that cap is set to ex­pire Jan. 1. This amend­ment would make it per­ma­nent.

Vot­ers set the ex­ist­ing 10-per­cent cap in 2008. It helped ease in­equities in Florida’s tax sys­tem. Vot­ers should now ex­tend it. Vote YES on Amend­ment 2.

The third of­fer­ing from the Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated Florida Leg­is­la­ture would turn con­ser­va­tives’ loathing of tax in­creases into a per­ma­nent fix­ture of state gov­ern­ment. Called Amend­ment 5, it would re­quire a two-thirds vote of the Leg­is­la­ture to ap­prove any new or in­creased taxes or fees.

This pro­posal is plain ridicu­lous. It would hand­cuff fu­ture Leg­is­la­tures’ abil­ity to re­act to an eco­nomic down­turn or fis­cal emer­gency. And it would be an ex­treme re­ac­tion to a non-ex­is­tent prob­lem: Florida has the 47th low­est over­all tax bur­den in the na­tion. Where’s the prob­lem? Vote NO on Amend­ment 5.

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