TaxWatch: Amendment 4 To Cost Billions
By Michael Peltier
The News Service Of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Oct. 21, 2010…….Passage of Amendment 4 would cost the state up to $2.2 billion a year in lost tax revenue while eliminating as many as 240,000 jobs annually due to reduced business and residential development, a Florida TaxWatch study released Thursday estimates.
The report, which says passage would result in at least $445 million in lost state revenue and 64,000 jobs, was immediately criticized by Amendment 4 backers, who say there is no way to accurately determine what impact the amendment will have.
The so-called “Hometown Democracy Amendment” would require local voters to approve land use changes to their local comprehensive plans, an additional step that could reduce development by 5 percent to 20 percent, according to a study conducted by the Haas Center for Business and Economic Development at the University of West Florida.
Rick Harper, Haas Center director, said the uncertainty surrounding the amendment would decrease over time, but the measure would still impose an additional layer of uncertainty that would prompt many investors to put their money elsewhere.
“In our view, the most likely outcome of Amendment 4 and its ballot box amendment system will be to produce a seemingly random set of land use outcomes that will render unworkable any attempt at rational land use patterns,” Harper told reporters Thursday.
“There is little doubt that developers and investors will consider the increased time, cost and uncertainty… and that many of them will determine that the risks and costs are too high.”
Hometown Democracy advocates say critic’s assertions don’t take into account that development can still occur in areas already set aside for that purpose in comprehensive plans. They note that the Department of Community Affairs has estimated that some communities have decades of capacity left to build out.
Amendment 4 advocates also discount the ability of any group to accurately determine how much the amendment would detract or add to tax coffers, citing a recent fact check by the St. Petersburg Times’ Politifact that concluded that an earlier study by the Florida-based Washington Economics Group predicting a $34 billion hit was too speculative to be taken as fact.
“This latest so-called economic study is just another attempt on the part of the No on 4 growth machine to make up “facts” to scare voters,” Hometown said in a prepared response to the TaxWatch study. “ With the earlier No on 4 study discredited recently by university economists and PolitiFact, they have ginned up another ‘estimate’ that is as flawed as the earlier so-called study.”
The pro amendment group also touted the support of Republican Nathanial Reed, a former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the Nixon and Ford administrations, who has come out in favor of Amendment 4.
“As I have traveled the state I have seen the cost of bad development decisions by local government that has made Florida the foreclosure capital of the nation,” Reed said in a statement. “I am struck by the continued efforts by the development community to convince county and city officials that they can restore Florida’s economy by doing more of what made it crash.”
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