Vote down the amendments now

By Steve Estes

The Florida State Legislature has placed 12 separate Constitutional Amendments on the ballot for this November, giving at least local voters one of the longest ballots in recent history.

And most, if not all, of those amendments deserve to go resoundingly to defeat.

The first amendment question voters will see, after they get through the federal, state and local races, is one that would allow Florida residents not to listen to the new national health care laws.

This amendment seeks to force more than 40 percent of the state’s population to rely on private health care to take care of their insurance needs, without a mandate to allow pre-existing conditions or longer term care for youth.

Since the federal Supreme Court has already ruled the national patient care act constitutional, this amendment is simply a way to feed more money to more lawyers to fight a battle already lost by states that don’t want to establish exchanges to provide private health insurance. Yeah. That makes sense.

The second amendment question allows disabled military veterans who were not Florida residents at the time of their disability an additional homestead exemption if they move here. And this from a state Legislature that wants to seriously slice federal health care money. That makes a lot of sense.

If you see a pattern here, rest assured many other folks do to and that is why most consumer groups have come out against every state-sponsored amendment question.

Amendment three changes the formula for state spending caps from one ruled by personal income to one ruled by inflation and population growth, meaning that spending would be limited  to low inflation rates and slowing population growth, thereby making it harder to provide services to the state’s aging population. That makes a lot of sense.

Amendment four has the backing of much of the real estate market, establishing a process whereby taxable value of a home could not rise if the valuation drops. It also places a five percent cap on assessed value increase for non-homesteaded properties instead of the 10 percent currently in place.

With more investors and speculators returning to the Florida market, this amendment virtually guarantees that when commercial and rental properties again increase in value, the tax burden will shift to the residents of the state. That makes a lot of sense.

And thus it goes. Amendment six establishes a state constitutional ban on the use of public funds for abortions. This is something already covered by federal statutes and is simply a means of pandering for votes by seated Legislators.

Amendment eight would allow pubic money to be used to fund religious institutions. This is an indirect attempt to institute voucher programs for private schools to allow public tax dollars to fund private schools where the tuition is so high that normal folk can’t afford the rates, The vouchers give a tax-supported partial scholarship to students whose parents can afford private schools and choose not to use public schools. That makes a lot of sense.

Amendment nine allows a full property tax exemption to the spouses of military personnel or first responders who die in the line of duty. This is a noble cause, but this program is already in state statutes and pandering for votes by asking voters to enshrine an already-existing program is disingenuous.

Amendment 10 increase the tangible property tax exemption to $50,000 yearly and would cost local jurisdictions more than $60 million in lost revenues. Many small businesses wouldn’t be affected by this amendment.

The last two amendment questions follow the same line of illogical thinking and nearly all of them are disguised as real problems when they are actually incremental attacks on issues that have been struck down by the courts over the last few years.

We recommend that voters get educated, or watch local tax revenues dip deeply and the services they provide dip even deeper downward.

If the jurisdiction already has trouble making ends meet, which we don’t at the moment, this series of amendments could well push them into untenable territory.

The safest bet is to just say NO to every amendment on the ballot and then the follow on legislation that will implement a voucher program for scholarships for wealthy students, increase tax breaks for major corporations that already pay smaller rates by virtue of tax breaks than small businesses, and make sure that state residents will have to spend millions in tax dollars to lose a court case already decided that allows everyone access to private health care, which they already have if they can afford it, won’t be possible.

And make sure you go to page eight and vote YES on the local infrastructure sales tax question. The wallet you save will be your own.

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