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House gives Haridopolos his ‘Smart Cap’

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The House gave Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, another of his ballot priorities — a proposed tough new state spending limit (CS/SJR 958).

In the latest of a series of votes divided along party lines, the House approved Haridopolos’ ‘Smart Cap’ ballot proposal 78-40, which would ask voters to limit future state spending to population growth combined with the cost of living, toughening a state revenue cap in place since 1994.

Opponents of the measure argued it will tie lawmakers’ hands into the future — making it difficult to adjust to changing economic conditions.

“Fiscally conservative doesn’t mean being fiscally irresponsible,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. “This will drive Florida back 40 years.”

The measure, modeled on a ‘Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights” (TABOR) limit approved by Colorado voters in 1992, and later eased because of budget problems it caused.

Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, said voters should be given a chance to limit state spending.
“All the money we’re talking about here is taxpayer money,” Dorworth said. “It’s not our money. We can restrain our growth.”

But Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, said the ballot proposal was designed chiefly to drive conservative, Republican-leaning voters to the polls during the November 2012 elections.

“It’s purely a political move that’s not good for this state,” Schwartz said. “And it’s not good for future leaders. You won’t be able to hand out the $100 million in member projects you needed for the budget.”

Haridopolos, who plans to be a U.S. Senate candidate sharing the November ballot with ‘smart cap,’ praised the vote.

“This has been an issue I’ve worked on since I was first elected to the Legislature a decade ago,” Haridopolos said. “I was confident that this day would come if we were able to transform the Senate to a more fiscally conservative body, and I am proud today to have won this debate on behalf of Florida’s taxpayers.”

Senate approves TABOR-type cap on government spending

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would cap government spending, a variation of the “Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights,” or TABOR, Colorado instituted in 1992 but repealed in 2005.

The so-called “Smart Cap” measure, sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, limits future state spending to growth based on population and cost of living and constrains borrowing. Voters in 20 other states have rejected similar measures.

Opponents of the proposed amendment argued that the state constitution already curbs state spending by requiring a balanced budget and that the spending caps could harm the state’s most vulnerable in economic downturns like Florida is now experiencing. Lawmakers are struggling to slash at least $3.62 billion from last year’s budget.

The Colorado measure also capped local government spending increases, something not included in Bogdanoff’s proposal, and resulted in a dramatic decline in education and social services funding.

“We already have a revenue limit in Florida. We have repealed as much as $19 billion in taxes over the last 12 years. We simply don’t need an even more restrictive cap in the state constitution,” Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston argued. “If you think we’ve had hard choices to make…over the past few years,
TABOR will only make it worse.”

But Bogdanoff insisted her bill is necessary to rein lawmakers in.

“We already have a cap in the constitution. But it’s not working. We need one that’s going to work better,” Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said. “This is not Colorado. We have learned from the mistakes of other states.
We didn’t want to repeat what they had done…If government takes less, the people have more. and I don’t know about you but I’m okay with that.”

The measure passed with a 27-13 vote. Two Republicans, Sens. Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Nancy Detert of Venice, voted against it; one Democrat, Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee, voted in favor.

The proposal is one of Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ top priorities. Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, is running for U.S. Senate, and, if approved by the House, could join him on the November 2012 ballot if he wins what is expected to be a crowded GOP primary.

The House has not yet voted on the bill (SB 958). It would require 60 percent approval by voters to get into the state constitution if it makes it on the ballot.

Senate president gets biblical about TABOR, bashes health care law

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ opening speech for the 2011 legislative session began with an homage to Winston Churchill, wove in several biblical references and ended with a Shakespearean quote as he set the stage for the next 60 days.

The Merritt Island Republican and U.S. Senate candidate blasted the federal health care law, calling it reckless and arrogant. The Senate will debate one of Haridopolos’ top priorities later today – a proposed constitutional amendment letting the state opt out of the federal law.

Haridopolos, his wife Stephanie seated beside him, waxed biblical over a second priority – a proposed constitutional amendment known as “Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights,” or TABOR, that would cap state spending and debt.

“I call my plan Smart Cap, because it is both. But it could be called the Old Testament Option, as the concept was originally Joseph’s. In the good years, don’t eat all the corn. Save some, so that in the bad years you don’t have to eat sand. Very wise, and very much needed if we do not want our spending in the past to be the prologue for the future,” Haridopolos said.


TABOR tussle ahead

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by John Kennedy

With the Florida Senate poised to approve a strict state spending cap possibly as early as next week’s opening days of the legislative session, opponents are trying to marshal forces.

The League of Women Voters warns that the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) that Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, is looking to put before voters next year could doom Florida to years of inadequate financing of health and social service programs.

Critics say the state’s tough revenue picture is only going to get more brutal if TABOR is OK’d by voters.

“This is like telling people who are dying of thirst in the desert that they need to have flood insurance,” said Ben Wilcox, a league lobbyist.

Florida already has a revenue cap in the state constitution, approved by voters in 1994. But the latest proposal tightens it from being based on personal income growth to a new standard tied to population growth and inflation, while also limiting future borrowing.

It doesn’t apply to cities and counties. 

 Colorado approved the nation’s first TABOR in 1992, but later suspended it do to government cash-flow problems.  Haridopolos, a candidate for U.S. Senate, says TABOR is needed to restrain state government — especially when the recession eases and tax collections return to earlier levels.

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