Florida Amendment 5 (2008)
|Not on Ballot|
| This measure did not or |
will not appear on a ballot
Amendment 5 would have amended the Florida Constitution to eliminate property taxes that the state legislature currently requires local school districts to levy in order to qualify for state aid. It would have forced the legislature to make up for a loss of $8 billion in revenue, to be replaced by a percentage point increase in the 6 percent statewide sales tax, among other options.
Courts pull from ballot
A court in Leon County originally pulled the measure from the ballot, stating "the ballot title and summary provided in the proposition for Amendment 5 fail to fairly inform the voter, in a clear and unambiguous language, of the chief purposes of the amendment and the language of the title and summary, as written, is misleading in the foregoing respects." The ruling was being appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
The 1st District Court of Appeal agreed to pass the case directly to the Supreme Court without a ruling to expediate the process, so the ultimate fate of the amendment was dependent on the Florida Supreme Court's decision. Supreme Court justices have voiced skepticism on putting the measure back on the ballot. Justices expressed worry that after 2010-2011, there is no guaranteed revenue replacement of the $11 billion needed to make up for the almost 25% cut in property taxes. Attorney Mark Herron, who is defending the amendment, was questioned thoroughly by all seven justices about the ballot title and summary.
On September 3, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with the Leon County court, and struck Amendment 5 from the ballot. The court said it agreed that the language in Amendment 5 was misleading, and also said it wouldn't allow a motion for a rehearing. Barney Bishop of the Associated Industries of Florida was a leading critic of the amendment. “Florida averted a major threat to its future economic growth thanks to today’s Supreme Court ruling that will keep Amendment 5’s misguided tax swap off the ballot," Bishop said. Calling the amendment "misleading wordsmithing" in ballot language, the 15 page unanimous opinion written by Justice Fred Lewis also stated, "Sponsors attempt to use phrases and wording techniques to persuade voters to vote in favor of the proposal."
Amendment 5 had the backing of House Speaker Marco Rubio.
Gov. Charlie Crist announced his support, though he said he was unable to convince some business owners and executives to go along. "It's not just for homeowners. It's for your second home and it's for your business. So I would encourage Floridians to support it."
Florida Representative Ron Reagan (R-Bradenton) also voiced support for the measure, saying that he supports generating more revenue from state visitors rather than residents. "I am very supportive of that because over 20 percent of our sales taxes are paid by people not from the state of Florida. It's a great chance to to lower our home taxes and transfer that to a sales tax," Reagan said. "It will have no negative impact whatsoever on money the state spends on schools."
The Florida Association of Realtors also supported the measure, believing that it would boost new construction, and relieve property owner headaches over the rising ad valorem taxes. Chuck Bonfiglio, president of FAR, said, "Florida voters are united in their strong feeling that something must be done to cut property taxes in our state. Over the past six years, property taxes have more than doubled. Add today's higher fuel prices and food costs and it's no wonder Florida families are struggling to make ends meet. That's where Amendment 5 can help. Passage of Amendment 5 will cut property taxes by at least 25 percent for all property owners, and could cut property taxes by up to 40 percent depending on where you live." FAR is giving $1 million to the Give Me 5 for Florida's Future campaign for in support of Amendment 5, which has set up a political committee as well as the website www.giveme5florida.com.
Opponents included the Florida School Boards Association, who say they would rather see a review of the current sales tax exemptions rather than raising the level of the current sales tax. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida have also voiced opposition to the measure, not only because of the raise in sales tax, but also because it could potentially lead to taxing services, which are currently exempt from taxation. The president of the Associated Industries of Florida has called the measure “blind leap into Florida’s future that would halt economic development.”
A grassroots group called 50th No More also opposed the measure. The group formed in spring of 2008 in response to state-mandated budget cuts for schools, and its name refers to Florida's 50th ranking by the U.S. Census Bureau in spending compared to wealth. Now focused on Amendment 5, cofounder Colleen Wood says, "If Amendment 5 passes it is more taxes, less services and less funding for our schools. Everyone loses."
Florida's CFO Alex Sink said that while she did not have a formal position, she leaned against Amendment 5. "I'd like to hear the governor and legislative leaders tell the voters where the shortfall is coming from, and unless I hear that I'm not sure we ought to take a gamble," Sink said. "Education funding is very important for Floridians. Part of our economy has to be based on attracting and keeping good-paying jobs. And we can't do that without a well-educated work force."
Future Senate President Mike Haridopolos has voiced his opposition to Amendment 5. "Only if Floridians want to pay an average of $200 more in taxes should they vote for this." Haridopolos points out that the state budget commission's economist says the amendment would hinder the economy, cause a loss of 53,000 jobs, and raise prices.
The watchdog organization Florida TaxWatch opposed to the measure, saying that after the first year of the tax, schools k-12 would be forced to compete with other educational organizations and state priorities for funding. "Amendment 5's solution is worse than the problem."
- Florida 2008 ballot measures
- For information on other citizen initiatives that attempted but failed to make the ballot, see Florida 2008 citizen initiatives.
- Florida ballot initiative news
- Procedures for qualifying an initiative in Florida
- Laws governing the initiative process in Florida
- Campaign finance requirements for Florida ballot measures
- Link to Florida Department of State
- Florida School Boards Association
- Florida Chamber of Commerce
- Associated Industries of Florida
- 50th No More
- Florida TaxWatch
- Give Me 5 for Florida's Future
- Orlando Business Journal: "Judge pulls Amendment 5 off the ballot," Aug 14, 2008
- Florida Supreme Court order affirming decision to remove Amendment 5 from ballot
- Tampa Bay Business Journal: "Amendment 5 goes to Florida Supreme Court," Aug 19, 2008
- SunSentinal.com: "Florida Supreme Court to rule on Amendment 5," Aug 20, 2008
- pnj.com: "Court has doubts about putting tax-swap amendment back on ballot," Sep 3, 2008
- Tampa Bay Business Journal: "High Court strikes down Amendmet 5," Sep 3, 2008.
- The Sun-Sentinal: "Florida Supreme Court declares initiatives misleading," Sep 16, 2008
- New York Times: "Court Blocks Florida Ballot Measures Intended to Help School Vouchers," Sep 4, 2008
- PalmBeachPost.com: "Crist supports swapping school property tax for increased sales tax," August 5, 2008
- BradentonHerald.com: "Florida Lawmakers Slash $4 Billion," June 3, 2008
- Reuters.com: "FAR Launches 'Give Me 5 for Florida's Future' to Support Amendment 5," July 22, 2008
- WMBB-TV: "Tax Commission," March 17, 2008
- Tampa Bay Newspapers Online Edition: "A bad bet for Florida," Aug 12, 2008
- Firstcoastnews.com: "First Coast Moms Fight for Education Dollars," August 5, 2008
- TampaBay.com: "The Buzz," Aug 7, 2008
- MiamiHerald.com: "Amendment 5 tax swap a math problem," Aug 10, 2008
- Florida TaxWatch: "Uncertainty Makes Amendment 5 a Bad Bet," July 2008