BRADENTON, Fla. – As part of his 2018 legislative package, Florida Gov. Rick Scott will push for an amendment to the state constitution that would make it more difficult for lawmakers to raise taxes and fees.

Scott said Monday that he wants the measure, which would require a “supermajority vote,” to appear on next year’s ballot. To pass, the amendment must be approved by 60% of those voting.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (left) and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, shown here in June, back a constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority vote to raise taxes.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (left) and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, shown here in June, back a constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority vote to raise taxes. Meredith Geddings

“It is my goal to make it harder for politicians to raise taxes on Florida families and businesses and that can be achieved with an amendment to our state’s constitution,” said Scott, a Republican.

Currently, state-level tax and fee changes - such as the state sales tax rate, fees charged for driver license renewals and the taxes paid for real estate sales - require a simple majority vote.

State lawmakers used that power to raise certain fees following the 2008 recession. Many, such as drivers license fees, have been rolled back under Scott’s administration.

The governor’s office said Scott has not provided details about what taxes and fees would be covered by his proposal or how large a supermajority would be needed.

Some states require a three-fifths vote, while others are more restrictive with two-thirds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Florida’s general fund budget is largely supported by the state sales tax and other user fees; there is no state income tax.

“I am proud that by working with the Florida Legislature we have cut more than $7 billion in taxes, and I look forward to cutting even more taxes next year,” Scott said. “While cutting taxes is important, we must prevent against unfair tax increases in the future so our progress is not undone.”

Scott’s proposal is expected to see wide support from the GOP-controlled Legislature.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, endorsed Scott’s proposal Monday and said he has worked with the governor “to bring common sense back to governing” for almost seven years.

“We cut taxes. We cut regulations. We cut fees,” Corcoran said in a statement. “Now we need to make sure the taxpayers' pocketbooks are protected.”

The earliest the amendment could appear on the state ballot is in November 2018, just before Scott is term-limited out of office.

Some analysts consider measures that limit spending flexibility as a factor in their review of state credits.

In Oklahoma, Moody's Investors Service has said one of that state’s credit challenges is the requirement for a supermajority vote to raise taxes, a spokesman said Monday.

Florida is rated triple-A by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings, and Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service.

Sussan Corson, the lead analyst on Florida for S&P, said more detail would be needed to evaluate the proposal unveiled Monday.

In general, she said Florida is experiencing above-average economic growth and maintains strong reserves. Any review would consider “how the state would continue to do that in the face of unexpected events,” she said.

“We would continue to expect the state to do what it has done historically to maintain balanced budgets and structural balance,” Corson said.

Next year’s ballot already contains two legislatively approved amendments that would limit property tax assessments by local governments. Cities and counties, and some districts such as schools, depend on property taxes to fund their budgets.

Florida’s 2018 legislative session begins Jan. 9 and ends March 9.

Florida voters defeated a constitutional amendment In November 2012 that would have replaced the existing state revenue limitation based on Florida personal income growth with a new limitation based on inflation and population changes – similar to Colorado’s controversial Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Florida’s version differed from Colorado’s TABOR because the cap would have included the revenues used to pay debt service on bonds issued after July 1, 2012, and it would have required a supermajority of both legislative chambers to change the limit.

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