Amendment 5

The Miami Herald has a decent piece up on the fiscal disaster called Amendment 5. It focuses on the widespread bipartisan opposition to the Amendment, and notes that the real victim of this amendment would be the already struggling education system. About the only people really onboard with this mess are the realtors associations.

I can understand why they'd be interested in the idea. Realtors have taken it in the teeth for the last couple of years, especially when compared to the five years previous to then, when it must have seemed like they couldn't lose on a deal, and they had their pick of deals to make. They look at the current market and say that taxes are too high, and that's why the market is tanking. Well, as wiser folks than me have noted before, it's hard to make people believe something when their paychecks depend on believing the opposite, and realtors aren't immune to that.

Property taxes aren't too high in Florida, not when you look at the overall tax burden--higher property taxes are balanced by the lack of an income tax. (I favor trading some property tax revenue for a small income tax, for the record.) The problem is that the market got overheated--property values got too high, and taxes followed them. So the solution is not to cut taxes--it's to allow the market to correct itself. Realtors don't like that because it means lower selling prices and lower commissions for them. I get that.

But what they're missing is that property tax revenues are integral to making property values high. Do you want property to be valuable? There better be good schools nearby, and quality law enforcement, and fire protection and nice parks and good roads and and and... The list could go on for a while. Property taxes fund a huge part of that, and sales tax increases aren't going to make up for that lost revenue. We're already seeing the effects of the last round of tax cuts--fewer police, shorter park hours, etc--and we're about to see more with the beginning of the fall term, with fewer classes offered at universities, job cuts, expanded class sizes, and no raises for teachers. Property values can't go back up if this stuff is allowed to degrade.

It seems counterintuitive, but the biggest cheerleaders for the death of Amendment 5 ought to be the very people pushing it the hardest--the Florida Association of Realtors.

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