Bill would require local sales tax hikes appear on General Election ballot

By Deborah Nelson

A proposed bill, currently winding its way through Florida legislative committees, would require local discretionary sales-tax referenda appear on general election ballots.  If approved, future tax votes could not go to primary or special elections.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, says he supports the measure because primary and special elections tend to have a smaller turnout.

“Local governments will no longer be allowed to put sales tax increase questions on special election nor primary ballots,” Ingolglia remarked on the Facebook page “Blaise for Florida.”

“If government wants to increase your taxes it should appear on a general election ballot where the most people participate in an election!”

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Committee moved the bill forward Wednesday.  It’s currently under review in the Ways & Means Committee and Government Affairs Committee.

Florida’s 2017 Legislative session starts March 7.

Santa Rosa County placed two sales tax referendums on the August 2016 primary ballot.  The first, a half-cent sales tax to pay for a proposed new courthouse, lost.  A separate half-cent sales tax, to fund a range of infrastructure, won.  The infrastructure tax expires in five years.

In 2014, a courthouse sales tax vote appeared on Santa Rosa’s general election ballot, along with three pre-selected sites.  Voters rejected the tax.  In the three separate, location votes, a majority selected downtown Milton as a preferred site.  Because the tax was rejected, the site votes were nonbinding.  Santa Rosa’s 2014 general election ballot also included a non-binding Navarre incorporation vote, which voters rejected.

In 2012, Santa Rosa planned to place a non-binding (opinion) referendum on the primary ballot that would gauge public support for tax reductions to businesses as an “economic development” incentive.  The referendum appeared on the ballot, but was officially withdrawn due to a typographical error in the ballot summary.

Escambia School Board and sales tax referenda on the 2014 general election ballot passed, as did two City of Pensacola charter amendments.

In 2012, Escambia put a referendum on renewing County authority to grant “economic development” property tax breaks on the Presidential primary ballot.  Voters approved it.

A similar 2012 “economic development” tax break referendum for City authorities appeared on the general election ballot, and also passed.

Pensacola’s 2009 Charter question, approved by voters, went to a special election.

Escambia held a special election for a 2007 proposed half-cent health care tax, which voters rejected.

Escambia County placed the referendum to approve the Community Maritime Park on the 2006 primary ballot.  That ballot also included a 10-year, half-cent schools sales tax.  Voters approved both measures.

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