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The tax cap is back, and so is the fight

Call it TABOR or a “smart cap,” but a proposal to broadly limit revenue growth got its first hearing in the Senate today, passing on a party line vote after a brief, emotional debate.

Sen. Mike Haridopolos’ constitutional amendment, SJR 1906, would cap revenue at 2010-2011 levels and limit growth to population and inflation. It requires a referendum at the state and local level for any new tax, fee or assessment. “We’re going to give voters the ultimate veto power but also predictability,” said Haridopolos, who is branding the proposal as a "smart cap."

A litany of opponents, from schools to local government and community health care organizations, blasted the idea before the Community Affairs committee. “This could lead to governmental paralysis,” said Wayne Blanton, lobbyist for the Florida School Boards Association.

One local government representative fretted about having an expensive referendum simply to impose a $5 fee for a community pottery class.

Trey Price, a lobbyist for the Florida Association of Realtors, countered those arguments, saying a “reasonable” cap is needed and would engage taxpayers. “We believe this proposal bring the voters back into the local government arena,” he said.

The bill passed 6-4, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The fiscal impact has not yet been calculated. Four more committee stops remain in the Senate and it faces the House as well. "Sen. Haridopolos, you have a long way to go," committee chairman Sen. Mike Bennett said.