tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Thursday, Jul 27, 2017

Beware one charter proposal

Two Hillsborough County charter proposals near the bottom of the ballot will be easy to miss. It's worth voters' time to find the measures proposed by the Charter Review Board, a citizens committee. One simply changes the language in the charter that prohibits discrimination against anyone on the basis of "race, sex, religion, nation of origin or physical handicap." It would substitute the preferred term "disability" for "physical handicap." The Tribune recommends a yes vote. Unfortunately, the other change is unnecessary and deceitful. It sounds, at first glance, sensible. It would require any charter amendment or referendum proposal to be accompanied by a financial impact statement, including "a two-year estimate of the increase or decrease in revenues or costs to the county."
But a financial impact report already is performed on any county budget proposal including items that go before voters. There is plenty of public debate and discussion of such matters. In addition, every year the county economist projects the county's potential five-year costs, which includes the potential impact of such proposals. Mandating the focus be on a two-year impact is irresponsible. It forces the attention only on immediate costs. A couple of years ago, voters rightly approved a charter initiative that allows county commissioners to grant property tax breaks for up to 10 years to businesses that relocate here or to existing businesses that expand. A two-year statement would not reflect the new jobs and revenues the tax-break option could produce over the long haul. The short time frame would ensure that virtually any project that requires construction — rail, roads, buildings, parks — would be described as only an expense, although the project on the ballot might later generate revenue or reduce county costs. It contrast, the narrow window could entirely miss the potential long-term costs of a proposal with little or no upfront expenses, but that would require additional county support in a few years. This flawed charter change would be more likely to mislead voters than provide them useful information. On the Hillsborough County charter proposal involving the financial impact statement, the Tribune advises a no vote.
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