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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 it says: A vote in favor of this amendment is a vote to give widows of law-enforcement personnel, military veterans and first responders who died from service-related causes full exemption from property taxes.

What proponents say: Only the heartless would say no to this – why wouldn't you want to give property-tax exemptions to those who've lost loved ones in the line of duty to their community and country?

What opponents say: There's not a lot of organized opposition to this amendment – again, widows! – but those who do say it's not a great idea point out that this is not a great time to be reducing the amount of money flowing in to our cash-strapped state and local governments.

What we say: As the League of Women Voters of Florida President Deidre McNab wrote in a recent editorial at Sunshinestatenews.com, "the state Constitution is not the appropriate place for tax breaks … for anyone, regardless of how deserving he or she might be." It's far more difficult to make changes to the state Constitution than it is to pass or repeal laws, and for good reason – it shouldn't be changed on a whim or emotional response. And it's certainly not the appropriate place to create and modify tax law.
The state should (and can) help the widows of firefighters, police officers, correctional officers and military veterans – but it should do so through the appropriate channels. And in this case, the appropriate channel would be via legislative action, not via Constitutional amendments. As McNab wrote: "We urge legislators to use their law-making powers, and not taint our Constitution with complicated amendments that don't belong there." Amen, sister.

Amendment 10
Tangible personal property tax exemption

What it says: Provides for a new exemption from ad valorem taxes levied by counties, cities and school districts on tangible personal property valued between $25,000 and $50,000.

What proponents say: The amendment will provide relief for small businesses and inspire economic growth.

What opponents say: The amendment is another costly tax loophole that could slap local governments with a $60 million cost over the next three years.

What we say: Amendment 10 is about as inconsequential as its author, state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, in that it looks like something potentially meaningful on paper but does little more than complicate matters in reality. Specifically, the amendment attempts to incentivize the purchase of medium-sized equipment for small businesses by offering a tax break. Most economists agree that tax breaks (especially those amounting to just a few hundred dollars saved) are lousy incentives; however, they sure do make nice greeting cards. Loopholes are most often the targets for abuse, and, in this case, that abuse stands to directly affect local governments. Vote no.

Amendment 11
Additional homestead exemption: low-income seniors who maintain long-term residency on property; equal assessed value.

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