Not long after hearing oral arguments yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Amendment 5 should not be placed on the November election ballot.
Arguments originally were set for Sept. 8, but then were rescheduled earlier due to the close timing of printing ballots.
Amendment 5, often referred to as a tax swap, would have abolished most of the property taxes the Legislature requires school districts to levy in return for state funds beginning in 2009-2010.
Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper recently threw the amendment off the ballot saying it was misleading and that it did not meet the standard required to be voted on Nov. 4.
To offset the loss of the school property tax, the amendment authorizes but does not require the Legislature to increase the state sales tax by one cent and use the revenues to replace the lost property tax in 2009-2010. The amendment also suggests other ways lawmakers can raise revenues.
Cooper said the ballot language failed to inform voters that nothing prevented the Legislature from cutting education money starting in 2011-12.
The state appealed Cooper’s ruling to the First District Court of Appeal, which passed the case to the state’s high court to hear it “as a matter of great public importance.” The Supreme Court upheld Cooper’s ruling.
Even if the amendment had been placed on the ballot, it faced tougher judges in the voting booth.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research surveyed 625 registered voters last week and found that 39% supported the amendment, 33% would have voted against it, and 28% were undecided.
The Florida Legislature and voters have already enacted a number of tax reforms that are beginning to be felt by local governments.
Rating analysts have said they are concerned about the cumulative impact of tax-reform initiatives on local governments, school or special districts, and potentially the state itself.