On Tuesday, Nov. 2, Floridians will vote on several potentially game-changing amendments, including Amendment 4. Activists for and against Amendment 4 say its fate at the polls will impact Florida profoundly, and both sides have spent millions of dollars in the run up to the election. Since many Miamians remain hazy on the details, we asked the leading group on either side of the A4 debate to explain its position to Beached Miami readers. Here, Ryan Houck, leader of the Vote No on 4 campaign, explains why a vote for Amendment 4 is a vote for high taxes, low employment, and nonstop litigation. (Click HERE to read an op-ed by Amendment 4 champion Lesley Blackner.)
You have probably seen those tiny warning labels on the side of pill bottles, cigarettes, and credit offers. Well, here’s the warning label on Amendment 4, straight from its official Financial Impact Statement: “expenditures cannot be estimated precisely.” It means that they can’t tell us what it costs—and you know what that means: They’re asking for a blank check.
The special interest lawyers who bankrolled Amendment 4 say that their idea is “really simple” and that they “just want to give the voters a seat at the table.” What they don’t tell you is that these same lawyers make money suing taxpayers—and that they stand to make millions from the passage of Amendment 4. In fact, the non-profit, non-partisan Florida TaxWatch reports that the litigation costs of Amendment 4 could exceed $1 billion statewide.
And who gets stuck with the bill? We do—with higher taxes, fewer jobs, and endless litigation at taxpayer expense. According to a study conducted by The Washington Economics Group (WEG), Amendment 4 would likely cost Florida over a quarter-of-a-million jobs. Professor Tony Villamil, the lead economist for WEG, stated, “Amendment 4’s passage will have potentially devastating consequences to Florida’s economy.” Villamil’s report indicates that Amendment 4 would further damage our economy by killing jobs and raising unemployment at a time when Florida’s working families and small businesses can least afford it.
But we don’t need to speculate on what Amendment 4 would do to Florida. In 2006, the small Florida town of St. Pete Beach adopted a local version of this idea. Since then, the town has seen higher property taxes, fewer jobs, and seemingly nonstop litigation. When the voters of St. Pete Beach tried to improve their town’s failing economy by approving a series of growth plan amendments at the ballot box, some of the same special interest lawyers who wrote Amendment 4 took the taxpayers to court.
The message from Amendment 4 lawyers is clear: You can have any opinion you want, as long as you agree with them. And when you don’t, they stand ready, willing, and able to take you to court—just as they did the residents of St. Pete Beach. Now, nonstop lawsuits in this small Florida town have paralyzed the local economy and cost taxpayers nearly $1 million. That’s one of the reasons every major Editorial Board in Florida has opposed Amendment 4.
Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation recently reported that our state’s jobless rate rose to 11.9 percent in September. It’s even higher among younger workers. In these tough economic times, the last thing we need to do is pass an amendment that tax watchdogs, leading economists, and local case studies all prove would cost jobs, raise taxes, and make it more expensive to live in Florida.
Although a handful of wealthy special interest lawyers have peddled Amendment 4 as a “solution” to growth woes, a truly historic coalition of more than 300 leading business, labor, and civic groups have coalesced to condemn Amendment 4 as a reckless, short-sighted proposal that would undermine efforts to diversify Florida’s economy and lead to soaring costs for taxpayers. And while Amendment 4 is a bad idea in any economy, the current recession would make it nothing short of catastrophic.
Amendment 4 was written to sound good, and its proponents are full of campaign promises and slick sound-bites. However, it goes too far and would have dangerous unintended consequences for Florida’s future and many small businesses, working families, and non-profits. Vote NO on Amendment 4.
Click HERE to read why Lesley Blackner says a vote for Amendment 4 is vote for the environment, conservation, and against corruption.