Christian Weiss, Charlie Crist's chief economist, terrified Florida educators with a newsletter announcing the the so-called tax swap envisioned by Amendment 5 would likely be a one-way deal. Crist supports a radical cut in school property taxes. But Weiss stated that the governor was "not supportive of increasing sales taxes, either by repealing exemptions, or by raising the rate, even if the revenues are used to lower property taxes."
It's a nasty little ploy against public school funding. The governor urges voters to vote in favor of Amendment 5, which would slash the schools millage rate in half and eliminate nearly $9 billion in property tax collections earmarked for schools.
If voters endorse amendment in November, then there's no question: that money is gone. The cut is forever memorialized in the Florida Constitution.
Unhappily, the second portion of the amendment, the other half of the swap, is no more than an ambiguous toothless suggestion. The legislature is given a choice whether to raise sales taxes, or close tax exemptions or make cuts elsewhere in the state budget (an unlikely prospect given that Florida's budget has already been massacred.) Except there's no mechanism to actually force the legislature to make that choice.
Crist's budget boy indicated that the guv would not be pushing the lawmakers to use a sales tax to make up the difference. Crist, asked by the Gainesville Sun, refused to say where he thinks state should find the money to make up for the lost school revenues.
The growing suspicion, of course, is that the Republican anti-government leadership has embarked on a very sneaky "starve the beast" strategy: persuading tax payers to a one-way tax swap that will leave Florida's public schools $9 billion poorer. But they're never quite get around to fixing what they broke.