To the editor:
There has been very little public discussion, but some political action committee advertisements addressed to Amendment #4 which will appear on the Nov. 6th ballot.
The political action committee Taxpayers First claims that passage would create over 20,000 new jobs, grow Florida's economy by over $900 million, and generate $5.3 billion in personal income over 10 years. Sounds pretty good! What the ads don't say is that taxes will go up for homesteaded residents if current levels of county and city spending remain flat, or county and city services will have to be cut.
The Legislature estimates the cost (i.e. loss of revenue to county and city governments) to be $273 million in 2013, growing to about $600 million by 2016, and would grow at least two more years until the phase out of one part of the amendment.
Tax Your Assets Off, the campaign sponsored by Taxpayers First, says its claims are based on a study by Florida TaxWatch. However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the Florida TaxWatch study "suffers from a crucial methodological flaw." The study "ignores the tax increases or cuts to local services that local governments would need to enact to pay for the tax cut. It therefore gives a deeply misleading estimate of Amendment 4's likely economic impact." (Emphasis is in the original.)
Amendment #4 was introduced in the legislature by Rep. Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary). Rep. Dorworth is a real estate developer and investor. And Tax Your Assets Off was created by the Florida Realtors Association.
What does it mean locally? I have asked Cape Coral City Council to provide some answers before election day. And I've e-mailed the Lee County Property Appraiser asking about the financial impact of this proposal. It is a complicated issue. Hopefully they can provide some answers. In the meanwhile, the Florida Association of Counties website states: "Amendment 4 is estimated to impact Florida's local communities by $1.7 billion over four years. This Amendment will not only shift the tax burden to our year round residents but also takes home rule authority away from our local communities."
My best estimate (non-professional) is that passage of Amendment #4 means that in Lee County and Cape Coral homesteaded residents will see their taxes increased without the economic promises of those who support this amendment being realized. Ben Fairbrother running the TaxYourAssetsOff campaign says that counties would see revenue gains because more first-time buyers would boost demand for new homes. Is he kidding? Has he driven around and not seen the houses for sale? Has he never seen the foreclosure notices advertised? More housing construction would only deepen the existing housing market.
My vote will be "NO."