By Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner, and endorsed by the Florida Association of Counties
In an old New Yorker piece entitled “The Perfect Mark: how a Massachusetts psychotherapist fell for a Nigerian email scam,” writer Mitchell Zuckoff wrote: “Every swindle is driven by a desire for easy money. It’s the one thing the swindler and the swindled have in common.”
Zuckoff’s observation is worth remembering as Florida voters head to the polls to consider a long list of Constitutional Amendments—the first of which carries the allure of “easy money.” Unfortunately, Amendment 1 is about as authentic as that Nigerian prince in your inbox—promising to “richly reward” you as his “discreet partner” with an overseas bank account.
Tallahassee politicians are selling Amendment 1 as a “tax cut.” They’re betting voters fall for the false promise of easy money. The politicians aren’t after easy money in return, but rather “easy votes.” During the next election cycle, they’ll happily campaign on a tax cut that never happened—because Amendment 1 isn’t a tax cut, it’s a tax shift.
Everyone agrees Florida’s tax system should work for all homeowners—not just a few. But most of Amendment 1’s benefits would go to a handful of homeowners while the rest of us foot the bill—including many citizens in Orange County.
Amendment 1 benefits a chosen few by targeting tax breaks to properties valued between $100,000 and $125,000. That’s less than a quarter of Florida properties. For those of us with more expensive or more modest homes, we face a larger tax burden and are at risk of property tax hikes.
At the same time, Amendment 1 represents a double whammy for our state’s job-creators. Everything from pet stores and dry cleaners to retailers and restaurants will face an increased share of the tax burden as well. What’s worse, is that businesses will be exposed to even larger tax hikes because a business’s taxable value rises faster than that of a home.
If you’re a renter, don’t get used to your current rate. Non-homesteaded properties, like apartment complexes, will also face an increased share of the property tax burden. Landlords are likely to deal with their increased share by raising your rent.
Florida government has always operated on the basic principle of Home Rule. Home Rule allows local communities to set their own priorities and figure out how to pay for them. Amendment 1 completely throws out home rule. If Tallahassee politicians want credit for a tax cut, they should do it the old-fashioned way: By cutting their own spending. Instead, they’ve devised a one-size-fits-fits-all scheme that leaves local communities with an extremely difficult choice: Either cut vital services or raise property taxes.
What’s sad, is that Amendment 1’s sponsors are completely aware of what they’re doing. They even suggested that local governments raise taxes to pay for Amendment 1. That’s like giving away free coffee—but charging 5 bucks for the cup. Even if communities don’t raise tax rates, those not in Amendment 1’s “chosen few” will bear a larger, unfair tax burden.
Florida’s tax system is already messy enough. Amendment 1 doesn’t fix it, it makes it worse, more complicated and less fair for Florida’s families, small business owners and manufacturers.
Don’t get swindled. Vote no on Amendment 1.