Putting Education Reform To The Test

Explaining Florida Amendment 3: Tougher State Spending Limits

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Amendment 3 would change state spending limits. Analysts say it is more restrictive, while school and local government officials worry it will mean cuts in state funding.

Two changes which could affect school funding are among the eleven proposed constitutional amendments facing voters when they head to the polls Tuesday.

One amendment would limit how much more the Florida Legislature can spend from one budget to the next. Another would limit how quickly the tax values of property can increase.

We’ll look at the first today, Amendment 3, and leave the other, Amendment 4, for tomorrow.

Amendment 3 would scrap the state’s current spending cap — which has never been exceeded — based on growth in personal income sources.

The cap would be replaced by the rate of population growth plus inflation, a measure Florida legislative analysts say is stricter. Legislative analysts say the new cap is more likely to limit state spending, and had the cap been in place, revenue growth would have exceeded the cap twice in the past decade.

If state revenue collections exceed the amount the Legislature is allowed to spend, the extra money would have to be put into a rainy day fund for use during an economic downturn. Once that fund reaches 10 percent of the state budget, lawmakers could use excess money to reduce property taxes paying for schools or refund the money to taxpayers.

The amendment is modeled after a similar restriction first approved in Colorado, known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR. TABOR has been criticized in Colorado for forcing state and local budget cuts, but has ensured the economy has grown faster than state government spending.

A 2007 analysis by University of Colorado researchers found the number of special tax districts and state ballot initiatives that would create dedicated funding sources increased after TABOR was approved — and state funding became more difficult to secure.

School officials and social service groups are leading the fight against Amendment 3, calling the change a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” They argue the spending cap will eventually starve funding for local governments and schools.

The left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. estimates the difference between what the state will collect in revenues and what the cap would allow the Legislature to spend totals $11 billion over the next decade.

The Florida Legislative analysis says expected revenues will not exceed the spending cap at any point through the 2020 budget year.

A ‘Yes’ vote means you want to amend the state constitution to put the new spending cap in place.

A ‘No’ vote means you want to keep the current, less restrictive spending cap in place.

The Florida Senate

This graph shows how the new spending limit proposed in Amendment 3 would compare to the existing state spending limit, according to Florida Legislature analysts.


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