Floridians entrust lawmakers at all levels to tell unbiased, straightforward truths as they execute their duties.
Regardless of importance, I believe every issue must be debated within the confines of merit rather than misinformation and distortion.
After witnessing politicians publicly spread misinformation, I felt it necessary to tell you the real story about Amendment 4 and what it means to your pocketbook and Florida's economy.
Over the last several years, Floridians have fought through one of the toughest recessions in history. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were shed each month, countless small businesses shut their doors and a sharp increase in foreclosed properties devastated neighborhoods across our state. Today, Florida still ranks first in the nation for foreclosures.
In 2011, I sponsored a bill that would put forward a multifaceted, market-based solution to our housing-market woes. I worked closely with the Florida Realtors, economists and housing experts to ensure that this bill would create jobs and boost Florida's housing market by putting more money back into your pocket. And with that, Amendment 4 was placed on the ballot this year for your consideration.
Amendment 4 does three things:
1. Creates an additional homestead exemption for first-time homebuyers. This will cause more qualified buyers to purchase foreclosed properties that currently sit vacant and drag current home values to unnecessarily low levels. This benefits both current and prospective homeowners.
2. Reduces the cap on assessment increases for non-homestead properties, such as small businesses, from an overwhelming 10 percent to a more reasonable 5 percent. This will allow small businesses to better plan investments in local economies.
3. Provides a way to stop assessment increases on properties with declining market value. Especially in the last several years, thousands of Floridians have seen their home values decline, but their taxes increase through rising assessments. Amendment 4 will stop this painful practice.
Over the past 30 days, I have seen politicians choose their own interests over the interests of hard-working Floridians by opposing Amendment 4. They advocate for taxpayer-funded resources to be used to fight Amendment 4 because they believe more money in your pocket means less money in theirs.
They have even resorted to dishonest claims about Amendment 4, saying it extends the homestead exemption to second and third homes. Friends, trust me when I tell you this is completely untrue. Amendment 4 does what I have written above and nothing more.
The truth about taxes is that when you lower the burden on Florida's homeowners and small businesses, our economy creates jobs and tax revenue rises. The nonpartisan Florida TaxWatch estimates that the protections in Amendment 4 will result in an estimated 20,000 jobs over 10 years and boost Florida's economy by over $1 billion dollars. Home values will rise and more taxpayers will be created. This results in higher tax revenues without having to raise taxes during what we all hope is a recovery.
Because local government budgets grew faster than the rate of the economy in many cases, they had to make reductions in spending in recent times. And now these same politicians who irresponsibly increased spending in the first place are telling us that they can grow our economy better than hard-working Floridians can. Politicians should recognize that no one was hit during this recession harder than Florida's homeowners and small businesses.
Economists estimate that Amendment 4 will result in an additional 380,000 home sales in Florida over 10 years. That is exactly what our housing market needs most right now, not swollen government budgets.
Join me in bringing responsible growth back to our housing market and thousands of new jobs to our beautiful state.
Please vote "yes" on Amendment 4.