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Tax group calls development control proposal too expensive for state

By October 22, 2010 No Comments

By Jennifer Sorentrue

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Passage of Amendment 4 would lead to the loss of 260,000 jobs and $227 million in property tax revenue across the state, according to a study released by Florida TaxWatch on Thursday.

The Tallahassee-based watchdog group released a 77-page report slamming the proposed constitutional amendment, which aims to give voters greater say in development approvals. The study said Amendment 4 would cost $2.2 billion in state tax revenue and $16.7 billion in personal income growth over a six-year period.

“While the problems associated with unbridled growth are real and need to be addressed in order to preserve the quality of life of Florida residents, the economic losses and other problems associated with Amendment 4 bring a different, and in our view, much more severe set of problems,” the study said.

Florida Hometown Democracy, the political action committee supporting the amendment, took aim at the study, calling it “just another attempt on the part of the ‘No on 4’ growth machine to make up ‘facts’ to scare voters.”

“It is not an independent, valid study,” spokesman Wayne Garcia said. “The ties between ‘No on 4’ and TaxWatch are so strong.”

Under Amendment 4, a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot, changes to cities’ and counties’ long-term blueprints for growth, known as comprehensive plans, would require votes of the public. Decisions to change those plans now are left to local elected officials. The amendment must be approved by 60 percent of the voters in order to pass.

In a statement released on its website, Florida Hometown Democracy said members of TaxWatch have contributed to the political action committees fighting the amendment. “TaxWatch is an arm of Florida’s retail industry and, as such, is practically part of the ‘No on 4’ effort,” the statement said.

The study was conducted by the Council of Economic Advisors at Florida TaxWatch and a team of researchers from the Haas Center at the University of West Florida.

Robert Weissert, a spokesman for TaxWatch, called the criticism “baseless.” The study was conducted by a team of researched and then reviewed by independent professors, he said.

TaxWatch and other opponents of the measure say that it would bring development across the state to a standstill, by requiring costly elections across the state for thousands of routine decisions about utility systems and traffic patterns.

In 2005, the Florida Supreme Court found that Amendment 4 would result in a “substantial number of referenda each year” because it covered a broad range of growth-plan changes. Florida TaxWatch, a Tallahassee-based watchdog group, estimated this year that the extra elections would cost between $44.6 million and $83.4 million each year.

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