Senate Bill 7060 passed the budget subcommittee on tax and finance. It’s a vague proposal to limit state revenues further, apparently because legislators are incapable of managing fiscal governance with the current limitations in place. If adopted by the legislature, it would become a constitutional amendment put before the electorate.
The bill is a pet project of Senate President Mike Haridopolos (pictured) who has hankered for adoption of restrictive measures on revenues like Colorado’s disastrous experience with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Adopted by Colorado in 1992, the progressive devastation to Colorado’s basic state services made voters willing to pass Referendum C in 2005 to get free of its deathly grip. Despite the proven idiocy of the scheme, TABOR is still championed by Americans for Prosperity; yes, those folks who have been behind the astro-turf “grassroots” health care reform opponents and the TEA Party, led by the billionaire arch-conservative Koch brothers.
The bill’s language is at variance with the press release from the Senate Majority Office.
The press release states:
Beginning in fiscal year 2011-2012, Smart Cap amends Florida’s constitution to limit revenues collected by state government to the amount collected the previous year, plus an annual adjustment based on a combination of population growth and the rate of inflation.
Yet the bill says:
For the … fiscal year, state revenues are limited to an amount equal to the state revenue limitation for [the previous] fiscal year multiplied by the sum of the adjustment for growth.
The bill’s text makes no reference to what the “adjustment for growth” is, although it is mentioned in the bill’s introduction:
to replace the existing state revenue limitation with a new state revenue limitation based on inflation and population changes
Did it say “existing state revenue limitation?” Yes, there is already a formula to limit state revenues, there since 1994. Here is the current language which is to be stricken under SB 7060:
State revenues collected for any fiscal year shall be limited to state revenues allowed under this subsection for the prior fiscal year plus an adjustment for growth. As used in this subsection, “growth” means an amount equal to the average annual rate of growth in Florida personal income over the most recent twenty quarters times the state revenues allowed under this subsection for the prior fiscal year.
This current comparatively sensible revenue limitation measures Floridians’ personal income growth, and thus their relative ability to contribute to the state treasury. Despite the bill’s textual vagueness, it would be replaced apparently by the dubious measures of population and inflation. How population and inflation impact the ability of citizens to contribute to the state treasury is beyond my comprehension, yet this is the TABOR formula. Yes, the failed TABOR formula that only Colorado has ever adopted, and has since neutered. (Click here for a 13 minute video about Colorado’s horrifying TABOR experience by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if it fails to load on the left as seems to be customary.)
The Florida Senate had been previously known as the moderating and more sensible of the two legislative bodies, and in previous sessions TABOR-like proposals never got too far. Now with arch-conservative Haridopolos leading a much more recklessly reactionary Florida Senate, together with a governor friendly to extremist ideological fantasies, garbage like this has a much better chance of doing real damage. Let’s keep watching this one.
ONE MORE THING: There is also a House proposal to extend this disaster by imposing the same restrictions on local governments because it is only logical that local government must be as inept as the state’s Republican legislators, right?
Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando and chairman of the House Finance & Tax Committee, said that the House is likely to consider a similar spending cap proposal but that it would in fact also apply to cities and counties. “Locals need the same kind of spending controls,” Precourt said.
It is oddly reassuring to know that, even though the bounds of wacky keep moving to the right, the House can still out-wacky the Senate … for now.