Requiring a Supermajority to Raise Taxes or Fees Can Protect Taxpayers
Governor Rick Scott recently announced he would be recommending that the 2018 Legislature pass a joint resolution to put a proposed constitutional amendment before the voters that would require a supermajority vote for lawmakers to “pass or raise taxes or fees.” Currently, it takes a simple majority vote of a quorum of legislators voting to pass most bills, including most tax increases.
Having led in the enactment of Florida’s current consitutional state revenue limitation, Florida TaxWatch has been recommending a simpler and higher standard to pass tax increases since 1995. Even though there has not been a major state tax increase since 2009 and the Legislature has instead cut taxes in every session since then, a well-crafted supermajority requirement is still an important taxpayer safeguard. It would ensure that a broad consensus is reached before Floridians are required to contribute more of their hard-earned money to support a bigger state government. A thoughtful, non-draconian supermajority vote requirement not only protects taxpayers, it can also help avoid a more severe tax or revenue limit that could improperly and imprudently constrain state government.
The concept of a supermajority vote to raise taxes is not new to Florida. With the support of an Amicus Brief by Florida TaxWatch, the Constitution already requires a proposed constitutional amendment to create a new state tax or fee to be approved by not fewer than two-thirds of the voters voting in the election. In addition, the Legislature is prohibited from raising the corporate income tax rate above the current rate of 5.5 percent without a three-fifths vote of the membership of each chamber of the Legislature.
The Legislature also requires supermajority votes for local governments to raise many of their limited array of tax options. Several local option sales, motor fuel, and tourist development taxes require a supermajority vote of the local governing body (or referendum) to enact. A two-thirds vote of a local governing body is also required to levy a property tax millage rate that exceeds the rolled-back rate and a unanimous vote is required to exceed the rolled-back rate by more than 10 percent. A majority plus one vote is required to increase local business taxes in certain circumstances.