Wednesday, June 20, 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: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18