Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Broken Promise

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Broken Promise

Article excerpt

Second in a series:

Two wrongs make an outrage.

The major broken promise in Florida government in recent years was the misuse of lottery funds. Florida voters presumed they were approving a lottery to enhance educational spending, but the reverse happened.

"The proportion of each educational dollar coming from state revenue has decreased since the lottery was instituted," reported Florida TaxWatch.

At the same time, spending on prisons skyrocketed. So while Florida ranks 45th in per capita state and and local spending for public schools, it ranks ninth in spending for corrections.

Now a similar broken promise is in the works.

RAIDING HOUSING FUNDS

In 1992, the Florida Legislature created a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing by increasing the documentary stamp tax by 20 cents. It was called the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act.

Those funds are meant to be used to reduce the cost of home ownership by helping with closing costs, prepaid fees and principal payments. And related programs depend on the documentary stamp funds.

Yet Florida's elected officials have been targeting those funds, despite being flush with revenue in recent years, much of it related to housing sales. For instance, the Legislature should have $3.7 billion in additional revenue for the 2006-2007 budget, reported Florida TaxWatch.

In 2003, attempts were made to eliminate dedicated revenues to the Housing Trust Funds, but that legislation was defeated. The governor's office proposed to cap documentary stamp revenues, reported the Florida Housing Coalition.

Last year, the governor and House moved to cap future stamp tax distributions at $193 million, the level of 2000-2001. Some of the dedicated funds were used for hurricane-related housing. If that were a one-time instance, it could be understood, but it reflects a more serious lack of attention to affordable housing.

It was a partial victory that the final bill last year delayed the cap for two years, set it at $243 million and included a mechanism for annual increases. That still shortchanges funding for affordable housing. …

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