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Cover Story

The Amendments

Our guide to the confusing mess of constitutional amendments appearing on your ballot

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Photo: , License: N/A

What opponents say: This is an underhanded attempt to play on voter sympathies – the Constitution is not the appropriate place to specify tax-revenue sources, and even if it were, this measure would drastically cut into school budgets and property-tax income that state and local governments rely on.

What we say: On the surface, it seems like something everyone would want to get behind: relaxing the tax burden on disabled veterans. But here's the thing – disabled veterans who were Florida residents when they entered the military are already receiving this property-tax discount. All you have to do to get it is be a current Florida resident 65 years or older who was disabled in combat, and you had to have been a Florida resident before you joined the military. This law would allow disabled veterans from other states to reap tax benefits at the expense of people who've been living here all their lives. According to the state's Revenue Estimating Conference, schools stand to lose more than $7 million in the first three years of the program's implementation and local governments would lose an additional $8 in property-tax revenues. That's a lot of money out of our state and local coffers, and we're concerned it could result in an increased tax burden on those who aren't eligible for special tax breaks.

Amendment 3
State government revenue limitation

What it says: Replaces Florida's personal-income-based revenue cap with a new "smart cap" that hinges on inflation and population growth. State revenues exceeding the cap go to a budget-stabilizing reserve account that, when it reaches 10 percent of the previous year's budget, can be used to offset public school property taxes or voted on by the legislature to be used for other tax relief. The cap can be raised by legislative vote or be put to a ballot by the legislature.

What proponents say: The imposition of the more restrictive cap will inspire private-sector growth by cutting government spending. It's a chance for Florida to learn how to cope with less while still supporting public schools.

What opponents say: It's a "wolf in sheep's clothing" that haphazardly toys with education funding while simultaneously forcing painful cuts on the state's most needy, especially seniors and the poor.

What we say: The only previous example of "smart cap" legislation being passed was a huge failure; in Colorado, where the original Taxpayer Bill of Rights was passed in 1993, the measure has been shambolic. The amendment had to be amended twice since its passage, and higher education and road improvements have both taken substantial hits. This think-tank legislation plays to all of the gut instincts of poorly constructed austerity governance, playing images of bootstraps against a reality of poverty. Also, this TABOR thing was already silenced by the legislature in 2010, so bringing it up now as a ballot initiative smacks of political hubris. The conservative legislature will happily conserve when it comes to the needs of citizens, but given its track record of business kickbacks and tax loopholes for corporations, the cuts can only be seen as one-sided.

Amendment 4
Property tax limitations; property value decline; reduction for non-homestead assessment increases; delay of scheduled repeal

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