Rick Scott pitches amendment to make it harder to raise taxes

click to enlarge Rick Scott pitches amendment to make it harder to raise taxes
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Gov. Rick Scott, expected to run for U.S. Senate next year, wants lawmakers to put on the 2018 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder for future legislators to raise taxes.

Scott appeared Monday in the Central Florida community of Lake Mary to announce the proposal, which would require “supermajority” approval from state lawmakers, rather than a simple majority of 50 percent plus one, for hikes to taxes and fees.

“While cutting taxes is important, we must prevent against unfair tax increases in the future so our progress is not undone,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “It is my goal to make it harder for politicians to raise taxes on Florida families and businesses —- and that can be achieved with an amendment to our state's Constitution.”

If lawmakers go along with the proposal, it would require approval from 60 percent of voters during the November 2018 election.

The governor's office did not provide full details about the proposal. But the idea drew quick support from House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.

“I'm proud to offer my support to Governor Scott on this bold initiative and will do all I can to see that it is successful,” Corcoran, who is considering a gubernatorial run in 2018, said in a prepared statement.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is running for governor next year, was also among those voicing support.

Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who opened a gubernatorial campaign account on Friday, thanked Scott for the proposal, but then pointed to his own priorities for the 2018 legislative session, such as combatting the opioid epidemic and boosting jobs in parts of the state.

“Over 20 a day dying on opioids 36 counties lost jobs last ten years,” Latvala tweeted. “Those are my priorities right now.”

The governor's office didn't offer a definition of a supermajority, which typically is at least two-thirds of the lawmakers casting votes. Also, it didn't outline whether all taxes and fees would fall under the proposed constitutional amendment or just certain types of taxes and fees.

A news release said more details will be available in “the coming weeks.”

If such a proposal is ultimately approved, Florida would join states such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oregon that require a two-thirds or three-fifths majority for all or some tax increases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Scott also intends to make a similar request to the state Constitution Revision Commission, which is putting together proposed constitutional amendments to go before voters in 2018.
Already on the ballot for 2018 is a Corcoran priority that would let voters decide if homeowners should receive bigger property-tax breaks.

The proposal, approved this spring by the Legislature, would increase the non-school homestead exemption by $25,000.

Currently, homeowners receive a tax exemption on the first $25,000 in value of their properties. They pay taxes on the value between $25,000 and $50,000 and then receive an additional exemption on the portion from $50,000 to $75,000. Voters will be asked to apply an additional non-school exemption to the portion of values between $100,000 and $125,000.

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