Editorial: Local land baron’s sales tax campaign may backfire

Editorial: Local land baron’s sales tax campaign may backfire

Michael Gold, Editor

The moneychangers and land barons in St Johns County, frightened by impending property tax hikes needed to maintain the quality of local schools, convinced taxpayers it was better to raise sales taxes to keep property taxes low.

The highly-polished, well financed campaign resulted in a bill to taxpayers for a countywide special election, and, at least for the next decade, 1/2% increase in the cost of all taxable purchases.

While I am happy to let the blame rest with those in St Johns County who earned it, the idea of raising sales taxes to cut property taxes is nothing new — in fact, some of our legislators in Tallahassee are putting lipstick on that pig in preparation for the regular session starting on January 12, 2016.

“Some returning legislators are still plugging a “tax swap” proposal that failed in 2015. The problem with the plan is that it would hike sales taxes on everyone and it is rife with potential unintended consequences.

Such a tax swap would overexpose the Sunshine State to fluctuations in sales tax revenue. Lawmakers might even cook Florida’s golden goose — tourism — by pricing many potential visitors out of the state.

If just a fraction of Florida’s tens of millions of annual visitors take their tourist dollars elsewhere, it could strip billions from the state budget and leave Tallahassee lawmakers thirsting for new sources of revenue. There’s a scary thought.

With fewer tourists to tax, legislators would face pressure to raise sales taxes even higher, punishing tourism even further and precipitating a tax-and-tourism death spiral.

Moreover, Sunshine State businesses that border Georgia and Alabama could suffer greatly as Floridians cross state lines to do their shopping in places where sales taxes are much lower.

Who was it that said no man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session?

Share your thoughts with our readers >>