Wednesday we ran a Page 1 story titled, “Scott wants to make it harder to raise taxes.” The gist is Gov. Rick Scott’s proposing a supermajority vote be necessary in order for the legislature to raise taxes. That’s not only for this year, but also in years to come. It is not coincidental that he won’t be around for the legislative bloodbath, should it pass.
This is de rigueur for the Governor this year, as his budget priorities have moved from something for tourism and corporations, period — to something for everyone.
He’s heading for a high-dollar showdown with Sen. Bill Nelson for his Congressional seat in November, and he’s stumping for more of everything the average voter might support.
Thus far, his new budget priorities are go to bat for more money for schools (check), more money for the environment (check), more money to fight the terror du jour, opioid abuse (check), more housing for victims of Hurricane Irma (check), more money for Bright Futures scholarships (check) and more money for law enforcement, and first responders (check, and checkmate).
He’s morphed from a sneering advocate of corporate gimmes and a tourists-at-all-cost mentality, to a huggable buddy of the people.
And now he wants to add to his resume putting the squeeze on new taxes, possibly in perpetuity. He accomplishes the trick by hamstringing future governors and lawmakers with the supermajority vote.
Remember, if down the road, lawmakers decide to unburden themselves from this choking yoke of funding, they’ll also have to get a supermajority to undo it — because that act, in itself, would represent a tax hike.
We’d be much more on board with his new plan if it were really something that would squeeze spending.
But it won’t.
The legislature has any number of ways to raise revenue without raising taxes. Chief among them is “allowing” counties and cities to raise revenue for it.
Much of Scott’s new spending for education will shift the proportion of funding from general fund revenues and quarely onto the backs of property owners, thus depleting county and city tax coffers, not state dollars.
And lawmakers always have the ability to “sweep” money from designated trust funds to pay for their “tax cuts.”
For instance, in his new budget Scott pilfers $92 million from the Affordable Housing Trust fund. The Palm Beach post reports this is the 17th such raid since 1992, and the total taken aside is more than $2 billion.
In 2014, Florida voters passed, by a 75 percent margin, Amendment 1, which set aside documentary stamp revenue to, ostensibly, purchase and pamper conservation lands in the state.
Last year the legislature set aside exactly zero dollars for the Florida Forever fund and squeezed tens of millions of dollars out of the trust fund for programs that were anything but conservation-centric.
We’d be much more impressed seeing a bill that mandated a super-majority vote necessary to rob trust funds, rather than to raise taxes.
But that could only happen in the Never, Never Land, where our lower-tiered workers had a say in how affordable housing dollars were really being spent — or panthers, spoonbills, tortoises, swamps and springs ever get a vote.
The revenue house of cards is clearly stacked against them all.