A ‘super’ idea? House slated to limit state power to raise taxes

Democrats say election-year proposal protects corporate tax breaks<br>
Florida's Old and New Capitol as seen from North Monroe Street in Tallahassee. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Florida's Old and New Capitol as seen from North Monroe Street in Tallahassee. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Jan. 25, 2018|Updated Jan. 25, 2018

The Florida House will vote Thursday on an election-year proposal that would make it much more difficult for future Legislatures to raise taxes or fees by requiring a super-majority vote of two-thirds of members of both houses.

The change is a priority of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who’s considering running for the U.S. Senate, and of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, a possible candidate for governor.

“You shouldn’t raise them (taxes) any time, but it’s even worse for a family when they’re struggling,” Scott told a panel of House members when he pitched the idea in November.

If the bill passes both houses this session, the bill (HB 7001) would be on Florida’s November ballot. Because it’s a proposed amendment to the state Constitution, it requires approval by 60 percent of voters to become law.

The Senate version (SB 1742) has not yet been considered by a committee.

Democrats and unions are mobilizing opposition and cite Florida’s low rankings in per capita state spending on schools, below-average teacher salaries and weekly jobless benefits for the unemployed.

They call the Republican strategy a last-ditch effort in a year when Democrats are poised to gain strength in a midterm election.

Florida AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin told House Democrats that the bill protect existing tax exemptions that favor major corporations. “This is about protecting special interest exemptions and loopholes that are robbing the state of $5 billion a year and protecting them forever,” Templin said.

Fifteen states already require some form of a super-majority vote for tax increases, including Arizona, California, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin.