Florida Proposed Amendment 5 – Analysis

The following is a report on a proposed amendment to Florida’s Constitution for the November 2018 ballot, “Amendment 5”, by Ryan Ramsey of the Legislative Action Committee of the Libertarian Party of Florida.

He addresses the major arguments for and against in the block quotes below the statements made by the legislators.

This report will be presented along with other committee member advisory opinions and voted on at the next meeting.

LPF members feel free to leave commentary.


For complete text and history of Florida’s Proposed Amendment 5 for the 2018 ballot, click HERE.


Ballot title

The ballot title is as follows:[1]

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTARTICLE VII, SECTION 19SUPERMAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED TO IMPOSE, AUTHORIZE, OR RAISE STATE TAXES OR FEES.—Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district.[4]

How did the amendment get on the ballot?

On January 9, 2018, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, in his last State of the State address, called on the state legislature to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote to increase taxes.[2] The legislature passed the amendment, which was enrolled as Amendment 5. The Florida House of Representatives approved the amendment 80-29, with the support of 70 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The Florida State Senate approved the amendment 25-13. Republicans controlled 23 Senate seats; however, one Republican voted against the amendment, meaning at least one Democrat needed to join Republicans to approve the measure. Three Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the amendment, sending Amendment 5 to the ballot.[3]

Supporters


Arguments

  • House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-37) said, “We should always make it much more difficult to raise taxes than it is to cut them. This amendment will secure and protect that legacy from future legislatures bent on raising taxes.”[5]

The idea of making it more difficult to raise taxes by requiring super-majorities, anywhere from 60%-75%, is the law in 15 states.

The spending today compared to a generation ago indicates that we have much to fear from the legislatures of the future and taking measures to prevent the growth of tax rates is logical and prudent.


  • Rep. Tom Leek (R-25), a legislative sponsor of the amendment, stated, “I believe that taking a citizen’s hard earned money should not be taken lightly.”[6]

This is a statement that is congruent with Libertarian ideals. We should definitely be a loud voice in the political arena promoting this concept.


  • Rep. Kionne McGhee (D-117), who voted for the amendment, said, “Politicians should not have the authority to raise taxes when they feel like it. There should be a higher threshold.”[7]

A breath of fresh air out of a Democrat to be honest.

When you start reading sentences beginning with “Politicians should not have the authority to….”, in arguments for an amendment, we are likely looking at something we could view favorably.


Opposition

Arguments

  • Rep. Joseph Geller (D-100) stated, “I think this is a short-sighted idea. There’s simply no need for this. Have some confidence in the people who will sit in these seats after you are gone.”[6]

This is the sort of statement you have to confirm is real because it is so absurd.

When researching Congressional Approval Ratings, found HERE, the long term trend is increasing disdain for politicians currently controlling DC. It has plummeted the last 20 years to a current disapproval rate of 81%.

Tax rates have gone up every year for decades.

To have confidence in Republicans or Democrats as a whole to be fiscally responsible would be foolish at the very least.


  • Rep. Sean Shaw (D-61) said, “Each and every Session, there’s a different tension between taxes and revenue and what we want to spend money on and what we don’t. I’m no smarter than someone who’s going to come here 10 years from now to vote. And so I don’t think I ought to have more power than that person that sits in this seat 10 years from now to vote. They should be able to vote up or down on tax policy, up and down on revenues, just like I do.”[8]

The amendment is not related to intelligence of future legislatures, but to make it more difficult to continue the perpetual annual growth of government.

Florida has a mandate to balance the budget every year due to another Constitutional Amendment. Rather than being compelled to reign in costs by this previous attempt to force fiscal responsibility on lawmakers, they just began perpetually raising taxes and fees to continue the growth of the state.

They were irresponsible and ignored the spirit of the Balanced Budget Amendment, and with it the will of the voters who passed it.

Rep. Shaw has it backwards. He should not have the power to vote the property of others into the hands of the government so easily and neither should anyone in the future.


  • Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-27) said, “This legislature would be constrained from raising funds going into the future but when it comes time — like this legislature does every year — to carve special exemptions out of the tax base, there would not be a heightened threshold. What that does is make our tax code more and more and more regressive.”[9]

Making our tax code more regressive is another way of saying “undoing the advance of Marxist forms of taxation designed to create economic chaos and class warfare”.

The “Communist Manifesto” written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engles in 1848, can be found HERE.

It includes “Ten Planks”, which are the principle means of de-stabilizing a Republic or other free western country to bring it under Communist rule.

The path to Communism laid out in the book was to first institute Democracy in order to empower the mob over the rule of law and inalienable rights. Democracy gives the mob the power to vote the property of others to themselves, and soon devolves into a Social-Democracy into full Socialism.

Once Socialism is firmly entrenched, it creates debt and scarcity until the state eventually begins to seize all property, thus bringing about the goal of full Communism.

The United States has been undermined by many of these ten planks, and an analysis of each plank implementation in the US may be read HERE.

Plank #2 reads as follows:

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

Progressive taxes are designed to discriminate against producers, and discourage them, by rising in rate the more they produce.

This has an overall effect of slowing the economy and increasing the wage gap. This situation is then exploited by the Marxists to create hate and discontent among the lower classes, which they call the “proletariat”, toward the wealthy, which they call the bourgeoisie.

Since there is always more poor than rich people, the bourgeoisie eventually run out of money to give the proletariat, and this devolves into class war and then civil war/revolution. These have been historically violent and catalysts to disturbing crimes against humanity.

Senator Rodriguez is openly promoting philosophies that led to the murder of over 100 million people last century.

His argument consists of a complaint that the amendment rolls back the advance of Communism in Florida, which is probably the best argument FOR the bill yet stated.


Summary of Opinion:

In addition to requiring a supermajority 2/3 vote, the bill requires that new taxes or increases to existing taxes be presented in a single bill, with no other items.

The legislature will often hide tax increases in bills on other subjects, so unpopular tax increases can be passed as part of popular or necessary legislation.
Sometimes these increases are also hidden in long bills in hopes the public or other legislators will not notice them. Sadly, it is common for elected officials to vote along party lines without even reading a bill.
This is an important step for transparency and accountability. Ideally, all legislation would require a vote on each substantive change in the laws of Florida. This is a good step toward that goal in a critical area, taxation.

The Amendment places additional obstacles in the path of the growth of the state. I recommend the LPF both endorse and give public support to Amendment 5.

I would also advocate we note in our public statement that it should be raised from 2/3 to 75% ASAP, as the next step.

3 states currently require a 3/4 vote to raise taxes and that step would put Florida among the states that make it the hardest to raise taxes, which is where Florida belongs.


Ryan Ramsey

Legislative Action Committee – Libertarian Party of Florida