NO on Amendment 9, Because the Florida Constitution Is Not the Place for Tax Breaks
Around the State
Let me explain why the League of Women Voters of Florida is willing to take what may seem like an unpopular decision.
It is understandable that many may be inclined to support this break, which will appear on Florida’s Nov. 6 ballot as Amendment 9 (Florida Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses) to our state Constitution. Regardless of the possible benefits, however, this measure deserves a thumbs down from all voters.
Amendment 9 is one of three initiatives to place property tax exemptions into our Constitution. Similarly, Amendment 2 would give a property tax discount to veterans disabled due to combat injury, and Amendment 11 would expand the homestead exemption for low-income seniors. The League opposes all of them for two basic reasons:
First, the state Constitution is not the appropriate place for tax breaks … for anyone, regardless of how deserving he or she might be. Our Florida Constitution was crafted as a document that is intended to be difficult to change, and kept sacred for the purpose of defining the structure of our government. These proposed amendments, however, would insert specific tax exemptions into that sacred document.
With the Constitution intentionally hard to change, a better place for such tax provisions is regular statutory law, where changing conditions make modification easier. The Constitution is a governing document, and should be left sacred to that purpose. We urge legislators to use their law-making powers, and not taint our Constitution with complicated amendments that don’t belong there.
Second, Florida should have a level playing field for taxes. Imagine a giant hunk of Swiss cheese. That is our state tax policy today, rife with loopholes everywhere for owners of private planes, yacht owners, even breeders who purchase ostrich-feed.
The League says close the loopholes, level the playing field, and lower the amount on everyone, not just a designated few.
Of course our disabled veterans and surviving spouses of first responders and veterans deserve our highest respect, and we should do everything we can reasonably do to thank them and recognize them.
So let's thank our veterans, our first responders and our low-income seniors not by opening more exemptions just for them, but by leveling the playing field, providing a fair tax rate for all Floridians and adequately funding our public schools and universities, so that we can compete with the rest of America -- perhaps one day bringing higher-paying jobs and new businesses to our state.
Deirdre Macnab is state president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.