On January 29, 2008, I predict that in addition to choosing among candidates for President of the United States, Florida voters will ratify “the Amendment”. Also known as Amendment 1 – this provision promises $9 Billion in property tax relief for residential homeowners. Florida has a higher percentage of non-resident owners of real property than any other state.
Like Californians with their Proposition 13, Florida homeowners may be expected to vote their pocketbooks despite any deleterious budgetary impact upon police, fire, and rescue. However, the most intriguing aspect of the referendum measure is that it is probably unconstitutional.
Our U.S. Constitution provides as follows:
Amendment XIV, Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The “Save Our Homes” assessment cap and its portability provision (offering up to $500,000 of savings when Florida residents relocate in-state) are materially different from the higher fees that states regularly charge visitors for hunting and fishing licenses. In the case of these licenses, states are protecting scarce natural resources from predation.
In the realm of property taxes, Florida’s only “state interest” in Amendment 1 is gouging tourists. If the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment quoted above are to mean anything, it is that a state cannot tax non-residents at a higher rate exclusively for the purpose of revenue.
Captiva, Florida Tuesday, January 22, 2008