The Florida Legislature and Governor Crist need to show renewed leadership, using the fiscal problems that they face as an opportunity to reform government, eliminating wasteful spending, identify inefficiencies, and streamline government. Cutting spending to reduce the burden on the taxpayer is the correct answer, raising taxes is the wrong answer. The folks from the Tax Day Tea Parties were trying to tell them that, hopefully they will listen.
After being hit by the Federal Government on Tax Day yesterday, Florida taxpayers are now facing a brewing storm of taxation in Tallahassee. Many Floridians joined protests across the country increased taxation and overspending by the government (Federal, State, and Local), just as legislators are considering tax increases in Tallahassee.
Friday, April 17th, two days after Tax Day, the Florida House of Representatives is expected to vote on House Bill 5001, a $65 billion plus appropriations bill that is riddled with tax increases that they call fees. The Florida Senate is also expected to vote on Senate Bills 1840 and 2600. SB 1840 is a tax on cigarettes that politicians have been calling a surcharge or a fee, anything to avoid what it is, a tax. Also, as in the House of Representatives, the Senate is raising taxes on numerous government services and calling them fees in the text of SB 2600 their $65 billion dollar plus appropriations bill.
Why do they think they can fool the taxpayers of Florida by calling a tax a fee or a surcharge? Are their federal income tax bills fees on their jobs? Are sales taxes a fee on the products they buy? If a fee is truly a user fee, it needs to pass the test of meeting the following three criteria: The charge must be funding a specific service, with no excess going into a general fund; the charge must be paid only by those who use that specific government service; and individuals must have the choice whether to purchase the service from the government (and thus pay the fee) or to purchase the service from a private business. If the "fee" in question does not meet these three criteria, it is a tax increase, no matter what a politician wants to call it. To see ATR’s letter to the Florida Legislature, click here. (Governor Crist, one of six governors to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, was also copied on this letter).
Florida‘s spending has grown by nearly $9 billion since 2002. It is not that the Florida government is taking too little money from taxpaying citizens, but rather that they are spending too much. The Tax Day Tea Parties yesterday were drawing participation from people who are fed up with the government’s usual answers to fixing problems: More Spending and More Taxes (check out the Obama Trillion Dollar Tax Hike Budget: Breaking Down the Numbers).
As for Senate Bill 1840, increased taxation on tobacco products, the Florida Senate is looking to raise taxes by an estimated $2 billion over the next two years. Singling out smokers and small businesses for tax hikes because they seem to be the easiest target is unfair (Rationale: They use the divide and conquer technique. Some politicians attempt to divide the taxpayers, picking on groups one at a time, cigarette smokers for instance. When revenue dries up, they tax another targeted group). Just this year Arkansas became the latest state to learn this lesson, passing a tax hike on cigarettes in February that was supposed to take in an estimated $86 million dollars in taxpayer money. Just one month after passage, the Finance and Administration Department said it would bring in $14 million less than originally projected. For ATR’s letter of opposition to Senate Bill 1840, click here.