Monday, January 28, 2008

Amendment we DON'T need: Florida Amendment 1

This Tuesday, Florida will host a primary for Republicans (and Democrats, even though the DNC has barred delegates from the state because we're voting out of turn). There will also be a ballot for a state amendment, meant to reform our state's property tax laws and supposedly making things easier for homeowners.

The amendment, in short, sucks.

To quote from Jeff Webb's article I linked to:

For sure, Florida's tax system is a mess and it needs reform desperately. But the deceitful deal that is Amendment 1 doesn't do the job; it only perpetuates the inequities and gives people an undeserved sense of confidence in their lawmakers.

And make no mistake about it: That's exactly what the politicians who back Amendment 1 are seeking. They want to go on the campaign trail this year and crow about how they saved you money by cutting your taxes.

(Remember, these are the same people who still claim - amazingly, with straight faces - that they solved the homeowners insurance crisis.)

So what exactly would fix Florida's tax system?

For one thing, recognition by both voters and politicians that, dammit, things cost money. We look to government to fix our roads, hire the police, clean the water, rebuild our schools, aid us during and after disasters, and take care of a hundred other things. That means governments have to establish taxes in order to pay for all those things. That means taxes are, honestly, a necessary evil. The question becomes, "How do we keep taxes fair?"

The answer isn't "Cut taxes," which seems to be the only answer politicians are willing to provide. Nobody wants to be on record as saying we need to raise them, or keep them at certain levels, because then the anti-tax nuts will go on the warpath and everything sensible gets tossed overboard. As a result, the incoming revenue stream gets narrowed with those cuts, just as government services have to expand in order to meet more needs of a state that has outgrown its limits (overpopulation, which is stressing our schools, transportation, water supply, health care service, and everything else).

There was already a major budget cut hit this past year in 2007, a lot to do with the fact that Florida can no longer rely on sales taxes and property taxes to pay for everything the state needs to do. Home sales and new constructions are down due to a massive market downturn (which is another disaster story altogether). Home values are dropping, screwing up the math of property assessment and taxation. Instead of expanding services, the state government had to cut back, and also cut back funding to the counties and cities, hurting those groups' abilities to fund their services. (Disclosure: I work as a public librarian whose library system exists on state and county funding)

Instead of trying to wow the voters with a Super Homestead Exemption, which looks so pretty on paper but which can come back to bite us on the ass, the state of Florida needs to switch to a State Income Tax system. Yes, there's about 900 million people screaming about how Florida never needed a state-level income tax system to mess things up further. But here's the deal: relying on property and sales taxes ain't helping. Florida is one of the few states left that HASN'T gone to an income tax system, and maybe that's saying something that the other states know what they're doing.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your a librarian. You guys have been living off of the cash cow of overdue DVD fines. Each branch library now has an impressive number of new computer workstations to surf the net.

Florida Amendment One said...

I'm against this amendment because I think that it will stifle the growth of the housing market in the future. This is obviously a short-term political ploy to gain voters approval.

Paul Wartenberg said...

Let me just first say:

HOLY BLEEP! I GOT COMMENTS!!!

(much dancing and rejoicing)

I can't believe it! People saw this post! I feel such a rush! WooooooOTTTTT!!!!!! OAKLAND SUCKS! OAKLAND SUCKS! cough. Okay. Got it out of my system.

As for Anonymous' statement that we're living off the cash cow of overdue DVD fines. Ha! Half the DVDs don't even come back and those fines go unpaid. These branches are using computers that are low-end and 5-6 years old. Half our buildings aren't even the size of broom closets.

And guess what? We're still a key, heavily-used part of public service. THere's still hundreds of people who don't own their own computers. They come to us for free (as paid for by state/county taxes)computer training. And we're still a place for adults to read (at least 40 books per patron a year) and for kids to do homework.

And all this stuff has to be paid for. Replacement parts for computers. New and Replacement books and DVDs (which we can't afford now by the way, due to last year's cuts). You have to pay for staff, and trust me we're working cheap (my twin is making triple my salary, my older brother making quadruple). Don't tell me we're well-funded: we're not. And if this amendment passes and sticks, it's gonna get worse (for ALL county and state services).

Paul Wartenberg said...

Bad news, just in: the amendment gets 64 percent of the voters, meaning it's going in.

There may still be a challenge against it, as there is still confusion in the wording, and a possibility the amendment goes against other aspects of the state constitution. But I really don't see what else can stop this.

What does this mean? It means a small minority of people are actually going to benefit from this law, while the rest of us are going to pay for it through jacked-up millage rates that the counties are going to have to raise in order to balance out the loss in revenue that is going to occur because of the adjusted homestead exemptions. In the meantime county services such as police, road repair, libraries, schools, waste disposal, water treatment, fire/emergency, courtrooms/public defenders, animal rescue, public transit, and hell pretty much every gov't service you know is either going to have to jack up their fees or cut back on service. Hope you don't mind. Also hope you don't mind that in 2-3 years, the 'adjusted' exemptions are most likely going to fade away and you'll be stuck paying higher property taxes anyway.

The Lizard Master said...

Holly Bleep! You just got another comment! :)

TLM said...

I'm not sure why I always like to add another L in holy. Oh well...

Anonymous said...

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florida amendment 1 libraries

keep on bloggin!

gary said...

Paul, I am encouraged to hear another voice in the wilderness that has realized that Florida needs an income tax!
It seems like the people of the state have forgotten what Government does for them. Education, Criminal enforcement, the Courts and so many more services are provided by the State that people take for granted. If we had more State pride we would realize that bankrupting our government and abandoning the next generation of Floridians is an unacceptable option. Unfortunately a large amount of people in Florida have bought into the idea that the Government only serves to rob us of our money and that we are better off without it. The people of Florida need to step up and take control of its future and ask for an income tax so that we don't have to make state attorney's and teachers work for free.

Justin said...

Paul,

I have to say you were right on the money, with your assessment of Amendment 1. It was just a way to pull the heart strings of the FL voters. However, now we are feeling the pain. Pinellas county schools is proposed to LOSE 23 MILLION DOLLARS from this years budget. Now if I remember correctly, Amendment 1 wasn't supposed to take money from schools.
I work in assessments for the government (Federal) and I don't think the State of Florida thought of the second and third order effects. And now its apparent they didn't assess what the approved Amendment 1 budget would look like, by having to take money from schools.
Just my comments. Thanks for letting me rant.
Justin

Paulrod said...

We don't need more taxes, what the government needs to do is STOP SPENDING, STOP WASTING MONEY.