Mr. G's Ballot Recommendations - Part 3 - Amendments 1, 6 and 7
I'll add to their commentary that this amendment does nothing that cannot be accomplished by the legislature without a constitutional amendment. Further, it creates yet another government agency to perform the job of what an already existing agency (Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability - OPPAGA) should be doing. I'm glad to see that there is an effort to get the state's finances in order and to do some long term budget planning, but more government and restricting the Legislature's ability to adapt the system in the future seems both unwise and unnecessary.
Mr. G agrees with The State of Sunshine, vote NO on Amendment 1.
And lest you think I'm lazy for simply signing onto The State of Sunshine's analysis of the amendments, I'll finish out the remaining amendments.
Amendment 4 would require 15% of Florida's Tobacco Settlement money each year to go to programs and advertising aimed at educating kids on the hazards of tobacco use. This will be approximately $57 million dollars per year, adjusted annually for inflation. The amendment stems from a broken promise made by legislators to provide funding for these programs, which now receive about $1 million per year. I can understand the frustration of the anti-smoking groups and why they resorted to the amendment. However, I also understand that government is most effective when it serves a limited role. This amendment not only requires government to step into a role that they need not fill, but also means that $57 million will be diverted from elsewhere in the budget. That money should be spent on necessary government services or put towards lowering taxes. Further, while it is certainly understandable why the anti-smoking groups would resort to a constitutional amendment to force the legislature into action, I can't support the way this measure would permanently bind the legislature to this expenditure.
Mr. G says vote NO on Amendment 4 and instead tell your kids they are grounded if they start smoking cigarettes.
Amendments 6 and 7:
These two amendments reduce property taxes for disabled veterans and the low-income elderly. Amendment 6 increases the homestead exemption $50,000 for a total of $75,000 for those over 65 with a household income under $20,000. Amendment 7 provides a property tax discount to veterans, over the age of 65, who were permanently disabled in combat and honorably discharged. The amount of the discount would be the same percentage as the percentage of total disability of the veteran. Amendment 6 is projected to cost local governments $36 million per year, but also requires the approval of the local government to implement. Amendment 7 is projected to cost local governments $20 million per year and is self implementing.
I was a little torn over these two. I love tax cuts, but we can do better than this. We have a major crisis with property taxes in our state right now. Cutting taxes for select groups will mean a raise in property taxes on others. We need a viable solution to the crisis that provides relief to the entire state. We can begin by weeding out programs like the one proposed in Amendment 4.
The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission will review Florida's tax system within the next year, and will hopefully provide some real solutions. Everyone needs property tax relief right now, so let's fix the bigger problem rather than trying to put a band-aid on a major wound.
Mr. G agrees, vote NO on Amendments 6 and 7.
For those of you keeping score at home, Mr. G recommends that you vote NO on every amendment.