January 10, 2008

Bold constitutional proposals

In our state, we have an interesting mechanism for constitutional amendments, in addition to legislative action placing a proposal on the ballot or citizen petitions. There is also a rotating set of commissions. Ten years ago, a general constitutional revision commission placed several proposals on the ballot. This year another commission is looking at taxation and budget issues.

Thus far, two target education specifically and a third would significantly affect the tax base of the state.  One of former Governor Bush's policy directors, Greg Turbeville, has floated the 65-percent proposal, with implementation for 2009-2010. Former FSU president Sandy D'Alemberte has proposed raising state education funding at all levels to the national average, to be achieved by 2012-2013 (hat tip). And former Senate President John McKay has proposed scaling back exemptions to the state sales tax. Before any of these would go to voters, two thirds of the commission members would have to vote for them, and then 60 percent of voters would have to approve each measure.

My guess is that of all the proposals, beyond just these three, McKay's is the one that promises to change the state's budget the most. Depending on whether local property-tax cut proposals pass in the presidential preference primary later this month or later, McKay's plug-the-holes proposal may not raise revenues so much as shift them from local property taxes to the state level. Or McKay's proposal may go nowhere.

The 65-percent proposal will probably go nowhere, largely because there are a wealth of arguments that stakeholders can use to point out the flaws.

The raise-us-to-the-average proposal is interesting and bold, and my guess is that it will quickly draw support from the state teachers union, the universities and community colleges, and the school boards. The key is to see where the state's business community falls on this one. If it's part of a supporting coalition, the proposal or something like it can make it to the ballot. And given D'Alemberte's political instincts, I wouldn't be surprised if he sounded out the state Chamber of Commerce. Or maybe not. (Intrepid reporters: tell us what's going on!)

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Posted in Education policy on January 10, 2008 2:15 PM |