Before I get to the substance of what Fasano claims about Amendment 4, let me first recognize his long tenure of service to Florida as a state lawmaker. It is doubtful that there has been a harder working and more earnest state lawmaker than Fasano. And for much of his career, he has been a champion of "the little guy," looking out for utility ratepayers and taxpayers alike.
However, on the issue of Amendment 4, we fundamentally disagree.
For starters, and he acknowledges as much, Amendment 4 was written by state lawmakers in Tallahassee as a way to tell local communities how they should tax certain kinds of properties. Secondly, he is also correct in that Amendment 4 would provide some relief to first-time homebuyers.
At more than 600 words, Amendment 4 (the longest and perhaps most confusing of the Amendments on the ballot this fall) has many facets to it and if it merely covered the topics suggested by Fasano, I might be a supporter.
But the other elements of Amendment 4 could be, in my opinion, disastrous for job growth and harmful to businesses in our state. It takes our already complicated property tax system and make it even more convoluted by shifting Florida's property tax burden onto new and growing businesses as well as Florida residents while providing special tax benefits to out-of-state and non-homestead property owners. It does not extend the homestead exemption to second or third homes, but it does extend other tax benefits to those properties.
In that way, Amendment 4 favors out-of-state property owners as well as those who own vacation or beach homes that are not homesteaded. By doing this, Amendment 4 shifts the cost of paying for public services to long-time Florida residents resulting in an unfair "us versus them" tax system that hurts those of us who live and work here.
It also provides a disincentive for small and local businesses to expand by eliminating the tax break on those businesses if they expand to a new or larger property. The promised tax benefits in Amendment 4 go away if the business expands or moves. Shouldn't we be finding ways to encourage small business growth and not punish them when they do?
If passed, Amendment 4 will create further inequities in our property tax system – a system that already borders on senseless – where two neighbors in identical properties pay vastly different taxes because of how they own their property. It is important to note that this inequity will apply to both business and residential properties.
In closing, I want to sincerely and genuinely tip my hat in respect for any state lawmaker who has served as long as Fasano. But I also ask that state lawmakers respect those of us who work in local government – the governments that are truly closest to the people we serve. Our work is right here at home and it is our role to work hand-in-hand and side-by-side with our neighbors and we work to provide them the services they tell us they want. It's bad enough that year after year, Tallahassee lawmakers send down a stream of unfunded ideas and pass their tax burdens on to us. But it is too much when they force yet another unworkable and unfair one-size-fits-all property tax solution in the form of a constitutional "fix."
And Amendment 4 is no exception.
I encourage everyone to vote "no'' on Amendment 4. It is bad for business, bad for jobs, and bad for all of us.