TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida voters will decide this fall whether to make it harder for state legislators to raise taxes or fees in the future.
The Florida Legislature on Monday placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would require a two-thirds vote by lawmakers to approve any tax increases.
The amendment was aggressively pushed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is widely expected to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson this year.
“I’ve been in office because we know that Florida families and businesses succeed when we put their tax dollars back in their pockets,” said Scott in a statement. “I look forward to this important amendment being on the ballot to protect families from unfair tax increases.”
Florida is following the lead of several other states, including California, which already have similar restrictions on tax hikes.
Florida’s state government has been controlled by Republicans for two decades, and during that time GOP leaders have pushed to trim back taxes.
The party did, however, agree to major tax hikes in 2009, when the Legislature was struggling to balance the budget because of the Great Recession. At the time, they raised the cigarette tax along with vehicle-registration and driver’s-license fees, although lawmakers rolled back the driver’s license fees a few years later.
Scott, who is leaving office in early 2019 due to term limits, asked legislators to put the amendment on the ballot to protect “future economic growth.” During his time as governor, Scott has pushed for a line of tax cuts, although he has also relied on property tax hikes to help pay for increased school funding.
The Senate approved the amendment Monday 25-13 after a handful of Democrats joined with Republican supporters. It takes a three-fifths vote by the Legislature to put an amendment on the ballot. The House overwhelmingly passed the amendment in January.
Before the vote, opponents said the amendment was short-sighted because it also would require a supermajority to eliminate tax breaks and tax credits. Such a requirement could “hamstring legislators” during an economic downturn, said Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat.
“It would tie the hands of future legislators in a difficult time,” he said.
But Sen. Rob Bradley, a north Florida Republican, argued that it should be harder for legislators to raise taxes and fees.
“Yes, two-thirds is hard to get,” Bradley said. “It should be hard to raise taxes because it’s the people’s money.”
Sixty percent of voters must vote yes for the amendment to take effect. There are already four other amendments that will be on this year’s ballot.