George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da Vo⁠t⁠ers ⁠t⁠o Cons⁠i⁠der Tax H⁠i⁠ke Supermajor⁠i⁠⁠t⁠y Ques⁠t⁠⁠i⁠on

By: The James Madison Institute / 2018

AUGUST 14, 2018
By Brandon Best

Florida voters will decide in November whether to approve the creation of a constitutional requirement making it more difficult to raise taxes.

Florida voters will decide in November whether to approve the creation of a constitutional requirement making it more difficult to raise taxes.

Amendment 5 would require assent of two-thirds of each chamber in the Florida Legislature for the enactment of new taxes or fees or increases of existing ones.

Lawmakers approved the resolution creating the ballot question, House Joint Resolution 7001, in March 2018.

The amendment will take effect and become part of the state’s constitution if at least 60 percent of voters approve the measure.

‘A Proper Defense Mechanism’

Lew Uhler, president of the National Tax Limitation Committee and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says Amendment 5 would force Florida lawmakers to think twice before they tax.

“The amendment obviously is designed to raise the threshold for big spenders to increase taxes and tax rates,” Uhler said. “In a state like Florida, where you have no personal income tax, there is an effort to raise other taxes, so this is a proper defense mechanism. The requirement to reach that two-thirds threshold will force legislatures to think through the incentives for tax-raising.”

Sal Nuzzo, vice-president of policy at the James Madison Institute, says voter approval of Amendment 5 would help guarantee consistency and predictability for business owners considering moving to the state.

“One of the biggest challenges Florida has in the next 25 years is diversifying our economy,” Nuzzo said. “We’re beginning to see more activity in things like financial services and high-tech manufacturing, and they need to continue to maintain growth. This amendment would guarantee a high degree of consistency in the tax climate. Consistency in taxes lets business leaders know what their outlooks will be when they look for where to start and invest in businesses.”

Restricts Spending, Too

Uhler says increasing the difficulty of taxation helps restrain spending as well.

“The balanced-budget requirement is part of the state’s constitution and, by increasing the threshold, you restrain those who try to increase the total tax load as a means to balance the budget,” Uhler said. “Making this threshold for increase a part of the constitution is a wise approach for the people.”

Cheers for Fiscal Responsibility

Nuzzo says the ballot question, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, is an example of how Florida lawmakers have responsibly managed the state’s finances.

“Over the past twenty years, Florida has governed itself in a fiscally conservative manner,” Nuzzo said. “We’ve seen a commitment to keeping taxes low, keeping regulation to a minimum, and promoting a business-friendly economic climate. We bounced back from the Great Recession quicker than any other state because of our tax climate.

“The Florida Legislature saw an opportunity to put in place a constitutional check on big government, in the form of requiring a supermajority for the increase of taxes and fees at the state level,” Nuzzo said. “It is incredibly pivotal to maintaining the trajectory that Florida has to ensure that big tax-and-spend policies should have a constitutional check.”