Less than a year after Gov. Crist’s $3 billion in statewide tax increases, the appetite for big government is small in Florida. Rather than curb out of control spending, however, the tax-loving crowd is looking for creative and politically palatable to take tax rates to new highs.

The latest proposal is HB 511, which would authorize a referendum vote to create a new bureaucratic institution in Collier County funded by higher local property taxes. The goal, of course, is to make it easier to raise local taxes by counting on votes from the majority of lawmakers whose districts lie outside the county. Tax-and-spenders will argue that a vote for HB 511 is not a vote for a tax increase, as it is merely allowing the voters to decide. This is misleading. By voting to refer a tax increase to the ballot, lawmakers would be allowing unions and other rent-seeking organizations to pour millions of dollars into a campaign in support of the measure. For that reason, ATR rates HB 511 as a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

This bill is similar to one that passed the Arizona Legislature earlier this year. Four state senators broke their Pledge in that instance. The vote on a $3 billion sales tax increase will take place in a May 18th special election.

Here’s to hoping the Florida Legislature isn’t duped into paving the way for a tax increase, as was the case in Arizona.

For ATR’s letter to the legislature, see below. For a PDF of the letter, click here.

 

April 7, 2010
 
Florida House
Florida Senate
 
Dear Legislator:
 
With Florida’s unstable budget situation, it is imperative that lawmakers oppose any effort to raise taxes and grow government at the state and local level. House Bill 511 would give an assist to tax hikers, authorizing a referendum vote to create a new bureaucratic institution in Collier County funded by higher property taxes. This bill is a move toward higher taxes, and a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. I urge you to resist this counterproductive distraction from spending prioritization and budgetary reform.
 
The citizens of Collier County are still dealing with the pain of Gov. Crist’s 2009 statewide tax increases. The last thing they need is an opportunity for tax-taking special interests to pour millions of dollars into a ballot initiative campaign aimed at exacerbating the tax burden at the local level. The appetite for high taxes is at an all-time low in Florida, forcing tax-and-spenders at all levels of government to get creative in their perpetual campaign to extract more money from the private economy. With respect to House Bill 511, this means asking legislators to vote for higher taxes on constituencies they do not represent – a politically palatable method of driving up the state’s tax burden.
 
This is a slippery slope and a dangerous precedent. The goal of lawmakers in Tallahassee is to improve the economic climate in each of Florida’s 67 counties. By voting for a referendum on higher property taxes in Collier County, the Legislature would open a Pandora’s Box of local tax increase proposals.
 
I urge you to put a stop to this clever ruse. After $3 billion in tax increases last year, it is time to put a stop to the rent-seekers who will leave no stone unturned in their quest to transfer more wealth from the private to the public sector. To allow a vote on a local tax increase is a vote in support of high taxes. Local governments should respond to economic hardship the same way Floridians statewide must: Prioritize spending, tighten their belts, and weather the downturn under existing budgetary restraints.
 
Onward,

Grover Norquist