Statement from Florida TaxWatch re the Financial Impact Statement on the Constitutional Amendment “Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice”
As the Financial Impact Statement notes, there are a number of revenue implications with the proposed electricity deregulation ballot amendment. The direction and magnitude of these were all analyzed by Florida TaxWatch, and are described in some detail in the longer Financial Impact Statement, but were unfortunately not clearly shown as significantly negative in the 75-word statement that will accompany the initiative on the ballot should it reach that point.
A Florida TaxWatch analysis reveals that this amendment would cause significant losses of state and local revenue if passed by voters. While it is undisputable that there is a possibility –even a likelihood – that the Florida Legislature and local governments could change tax laws in an attempt to offset some or all of the revenue losses, such changes to recover revenues would clearly be necessitated by the fact that passage of the amendment by voters would result in significant negative impacts on public revenues.
While Florida TaxWatch commends the FIEC on its hard work, transparency, and willingness to listen to input from all sides of this issue, and supports the general findings of the long-form analysis detailing the likely negative impacts of the initiative on specific state and local revenue sources without policy changes to generate those revenues in other ways, it is vital for the voters to understand, while they are making their choice on the ballot, the significant negative impact on public revenues that will inherently result from a “yes” vote. The enactment of tax-law changes to recover the revenues that will be adversely affected as a result of the passage of the initiative is a difficult and uncertain process that will clearly be fraught with peril, not the least of which is the challenged posed to raising tax by the recently passed Amendment 5 (2018), and the influence of special and general interests; yet these changes are – as the FIEC discussed during its extensive deliberations – almost a given because of the importance of these specific revenue sources to both the state and local governments.
As always, Florida TaxWatch sincerely hopes that voters will consider all the information available – including and especially the long-form Financial Impact Statement and the Florida TaxWatch analysis– but the significant impact of the initiative on existing public revenue sources should be made explicitly clear in the short-form impact statement that accompanies the initiative on the ballot pursuant to Florida Statutes s. 101.161(1).