Sunday, February 18, 2018
Editorials

Reject revenue straitjacket

Two decades ago, capping future revenue in fast-growing states was all the rage, as voters concluded that governments flush with cash had grown fat and arrogant. But this is not the 1990s, and Florida's government is not living large after five years of cutting services, shedding thousands of jobs and slashing education funding. A strict revenue cap proposed in a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot won't solve any of the state's challenges and could create many more. Voters should reject Amendment 3 as overkill for a problem that does not exist.

Amendment 3, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, is titled "State Government Revenue Limitation.'' It would change the state Constitution to limit future state revenues to current levels, adjusted only for population growth and inflation — locking in the state's current fiscal crisis even after the economy rebounds. The cap could only be breached through supermajority votes in both chambers of the Legislature, or by voters approving a future ballot measure. Otherwise, the state would only see significantly new revenue if there was high inflation or a population boom.

The proposed revenue cap is far more limiting than the one already in the state Constitution, a 1994 amendment that voters approved during the national wave of revenue caps. It limits revenue growth to statewide personal income growth. Only once, in 2005-06 — during the housing boom and the recovery from eight hurricanes over two years — did the state come close to breaching it. Within a year, the recession took care of such a threat. As a result of declining revenues, the state still spends less on each public school student than it did in 2007. At some state universities, tuition has risen more than 50 percent in five years as the state invests less, and for two years the state has set aside no new money for maintenance or construction of public school, university or state college buildings. Those are not indications of government gone wild.

Voting for Amendment 3 would mean limiting the state's ambitions long-term even when the economy rebounds. It would bind the hands of future legislatures that might need to respond to a natural disaster, an offshore oil spill or some other calamity. Lawmakers would need to garner at least 60 percent of the votes in each chamber to breach the cap for a single year; and it would take a two-thirds vote to reset the cap for future years. Supporters contend that would be all but assured in a time of crisis. But that is a naive view of politics that would handcuff government at the moment that Floridians would need it most.

This amendment was put on the ballot because Senate President Mike Haridopolos of Merritt Island and other Republican leaders were more interested in tapping into tea party angst in a presidential election year than being responsible elected leaders. Haridopolos pushed the measure amid his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. He later dropped out of the race, unable to withstand the scrutiny of a statewide race. Florida voters should heed the lesson from Colorado, where voters approved a similar cap in 1992 and suspended it three years later after it triggered cuts to services and increased the state's costs to borrow money.

Just say no to the Legislature's attempts to amend the Florida Constitution. On Amendment 3, the Tampa Bay Times recommends no.

Comments
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18