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Bense 'very disappointed' in ruling; others thrilled

Taxation and Budget Commission Chairman Allan Bense said he was "very disappointed'' in the Wednesday decision by the Florida Supreme Court to throw out three of the most hard-fought amendments the panel had placed on the ballot.

"We gave it our best shot," Bense told the Miami Herald. "I'm very disappointed but particularly about Amendment 5. I thought that was Florida's best chance ever for real tax reform."

Bense said that because the rules of the commission require a super-majority vote to place any amendment on the ballot, proponents were forced to compromise and revise their proposals to get 17 votes from the 25-member commission.

In the end, that may have doomed the proposals, he said. The tax reform amendment was tied to eliminating property taxes to win votes, and that led to reducing taxes that pay for schools which left schools worried about seeing their funding cut, he said.

The chief architect of the property tax amendment, John McKay, was equally unhappy. "I’m disappointed in the Supreme Court's denying Florida the opportunity to decide how they are taxed to pay for the education system and the services they reasonably want and deserve.''

He said he hopes the Legislature takes up the tax reform challenge because "the tax system we have today  will not serve our needs into the 21st Century.''

What others are saying:

"Religious liberty and public education are two cornerstones of the American way of life, and these amendments would have badly damaged both of them,” said Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and vice president of Americans United. “We’re glad the Florida Supreme Court did its duty and put a stop to it.”

“Florida averted a major threat to its future economic growth thanks to today’s Supreme Court ruling that will keep Amendment 5’s misguided tax swap off the ballot,'' said Barney Bishop, preisdent of Associated Industries of Florida.

"We look forward to continuing to fight along with Governor Crist and the legislature to finish the work on property tax relief for Florida taxpayers,'' said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

"The TBRC wandered far afield of its tax reform mission by advancing the voucher amendments,'' said Miami Rep. Dan Gelber, a non-voting member of the tax commission, "Further, in its overzealousness to seek passage of these measures, the TBRC tried to trick our citizens into voting for something that otherwise would have little chance of passage. The Court's ruling treated these measures with the contempt they deserved."