The Martin County Taxpayers Association will continue to keep you updated on how different issues will affect you as a citizen and in your pocketbook.

This year the legislature has placed an additional $25,000 real estate tax exemption for certain government employees on the November ballot. The employees who would benefit are teachers, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, firefighters, paramedics, active-duty members of the military and Florida National Guard, and state child welfare service employees. While this may seem like a good idea, it may hurt those intended to receive the exemption.

The bill’s sponsor claims about 4% of Florida’s workforce would be covered by this amendment. The additional exemption will not apply to school taxes. In the first year, local governments would lose more than $80 million and by the 2026/27 fiscal year, the amount would be $93.6 million according to Florida government state economists.

While we have not seen how the exemption would affect Martin County and our municipalities, it would contribute to the growing strain on government resources. That loss of tax revenue would have to be compensated for somewhere or it could involve lay-offs of the very employees it is meant to help.

The other question that MCTA has for our legislators is whether or not it is fair to have a classification of government workers who are entitled to pay fewer dollars in taxes than their neighbors who are not working in those occupations. The real estate tax system is supposed to be collecting taxes based on the value of the property.

The state of Florida has turned the concept around and has decided to reward certain citizens over others. This approach more and more mirrors the federal income tax with its many deductions and credits for favored groups and individuals. The income tax is used to encourage favored social outcomes which in our opinion this amendment is meant to do for those who pay property taxes.

If Tallahassee feels this is such a good idea, why doesn’t the governor and legislature pay a yearly stipend to this group of employees directly using state funds? Only a small percentage of private employees in the state are represented by labor unions. The overwhelming majority of government employees are. If anything, increased compensation should be collectively bargained by both sides.

And make no mistake since through an act of government 4% of the workforce will receive additional compensation through a tax credit it is the same as the state mandating these employees receive a raise without providing the necessary funding.

At some point, our tax system will not be sustainable to support the very employees this exemption purports to help. Since it is a constitutional amendment, it will need 60% of the voters to vote yes.

For that reason and for fairness to all taxpayers, we cannot support the amendment.