The following is a guest contribution by Thomas Aiello and is the opinion of the author.
At the opening of the 2018 state legislative session in Tallahassee, Governor Rick Scott announced his support for a constitutional amendment that would make it harder for the state legislature to raise taxes and fees. The state constitutional amendment, which passed the House of Representatives late last month by a vote of 80-29, would require a two-thirds vote, rather than a simple majority, in both houses of the Florida Legislature, to increase or impose any tax or fee on Florida residents and businesses.
If also passed by the Senate, this amendment will be placed on the ballot this November for consideration by Florida voters. There, it would require 60 percent of the vote in order to become law.
In his speech, Governor Scott said this amendment “will force leaders to contemplate living within their means rather than taking the easy way out and just sticking it to the public by raising taxes on families and job creators.” Governors nationwide should adhere to the approach that Governor Scott has proposed.
With an unemployment rate currently sitting at a remarkable 3.6 percent, lawmakers should continue to prioritize taxpayers, while continuing a pro-growth agenda. Much of Florida’s recent economic success can be attributed to the State’s pro-businesses tax and regulatory climate, which has helped add about 1.5 million new private sector jobs and increase wages by over $2,000, since Governor Scott assumed office. Further, millions of people have migrated from high-tax states to Florida and other states that have low taxes coupled with a solid reputation for protecting taxpayers.
With this common-sense, two-thirds supermajority initiative, Floridians can have a direct and constructive role in keeping pressure on their elected officials to support low taxes. Most importantly, it exhibits the deserved respect for the property and the earnings of taxpayers. Thankfully, there has not been a significant statewide tax increase since 2009, and a supermajority requirement would represent a valuable taxpayer safeguard to keep that trend in place. It would guarantee a broad consensus is reached before Floridians fork over more of their hard-earned money to finance a bigger state budget.
Opponents of this measure may try to argue that it is un-democratic to require more than a “50+1” majority to raise taxes. Sixteen states across the country require voter approval or legislative supermajorities to raise taxes. This includes left-leaning states like California and Washington, as well as solid red states like South Dakota and Oklahoma. These two-thirds majority thresholds have enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support because they establish reasonable restraints on the ability of governments to tax.
It’s long overdue for lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, to adopt a supermajority requirement for tax increases as an amendment to the state’s constitution. Making this change sends a message not only to Floridians, but others around the country that Florida’s elected officials are serious about protecting taxpayers. Senators should act swiftly to get this amendment on the ballot for taxpayers to vote on this November.
Thomas Aiello is the Policy and Government Affairs Associate for National Taxpayers Union.