Florida religious leaders, labor unions and senior citizens marched to the state Capitol on Monday to protest a proposed constitutional amendment they say will lead to massive cuts to education and social services.
Calling the Florida Legislature’s revenue-capping Amendment 3 a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the group of about 50 said the proposal would slash education funding and pit seniors against the poor in a scramble for limited state dollars.
“This will not be good for the great citizens of the state of Florida,” said Rev. Richard Dunn, a Miami pastor and former Miami city commissioner.
“It will not be good for our children, it will not be good for our seniors and it will not be good for the middle-class people.”
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Amendment 3 proposes to change the way state revenue caps are set, using a formula based on population size and inflation, rather than personal income growth.
Once state revenue from taxes and other sources exceeds the new caps, excess money would be used to shore up a budget stabilization “rainy day” fund.
‘COMMON SENSE IDEA’
Proponents of Amendment 3 — which is backed by business groups — say it will force state lawmakers to spend more wisely and avoid overspending during times of economic growth.
“The less government takes, the more Floridians will keep,” said Edie Ousley, a spokesperson for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Voting yes on Amendment 3 will send a message to our state leaders that the size of Florida’s government shouldn’t grow faster than the taxpayers capacity to pay for it.”
Outgoing Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, was a major backer of the so-called “smart cap” amendment, saying it would lead to “less, government, less taxes and more freedom.”
After the proposal was approved by the Senate last year, Haridopolos released a video calling it “a common sense idea that finally makes sure that government spending never grows faster than family income, meaning when the economy recovers we will not overspend.”
But opponents — who have begun to mobilize in religious groups, labor unions and senior communities — predict a much grimmer scenario.
A ‘DEADLY’ MOVE
Two speakers at Monday’s rally bluntly stated that Amendment 3 would be “deadly.”
Flyers used by the “No On 3” campaign show a menacing wolf in a sheep costume lurking among a flock of unsuspecting sheep.
According to Dunn, who represented Miami’s poorest neighborhoods in District 5, the cuts forced by the new cap would be brutal to the urban poor in Florida.
“It would be devastating, it would be detrimental and, ultimately, it would be deadly,” he said.
“Whenever you start tampering with education, with children, there’s no good end to that.”
Other speakers claimed that voters should reject all 11 constitutional amendments on this year’s ballot, which features several controversial proposals on issues including abortion, property taxes and state funding for religious institutions.
To be added to the state Constitution, amendments require approval from 60 percent of voters.
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho told the group of protesters that all of this year’s amendments represent “political issues placed on the ballot for political purposes.”
“Since 1968, when we amended the Constitution, this is the first general election in which all of these constitutional amendments have been placed here by the Florida Legislature, not by citizens,” said Sancho, who was joined at the rally by representatives from the AARP, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and PICO United Florida, a network of 60 congregations.
Toluse Olorunnipa can be reached at tolorunnipa@MiamiHerald.com or on Twitter at @ToluseO.