Monday, November 5, 2007

A Progressive Tax Reform Initiative

A state’s tax and revenue structure is the single most important issue in its politics. Florida’s skeletal system, pathetic to begin with, has broken down. It needs to be fixed. The Republicans and their decent but weak publicity hound running for President governor have failed to fix it. This creates a golden political opportunity for progressives, and dare I say, Democrats, to show leadership, to use this opportunity to build the progressive movement in this state. How do we do this?

The January property tax ballot measure is a patch on a worn out tire. It’s almost inconsequential whether it passes or not, in the bigger scheme of things. Even if it passes it solves little. The property tax crisis and all our other fiscal problems will continue to fester and probably get worse. There will probably be another billion dollar deficit next year. Too many people are being screwed by the dysfunctional property tax system. Something’s eventually going to give. It can’t go on like this.

The Republicans will make another attempt next year to fix things and we now know the quagmire they will remain in. The legislative Democrats will propose their plan but it will only be the back benchers’ plan. Besides, the Party is too conflicted and influenced by high income organized special interests to offer a populist plan. The issue is heading for the November ballot in what promises to be the big fight of ‘08. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission will be placing amendments on the November ballot, but nothing good can come from this Jeb Bush-Republican dominated group chaired by Allan Bense, who says that the top concerns are businesses, owners of second homes and investment properties. Rubio is talking about putting something up. An anti-tax right wing radio host in Palm Beach is using his show to organize a petition drive. (Geez, is he giving me an idea?). We progressives have to be a part of that fight. We need to place our own plan on the November ballot. If we don’t offer a competing measure we lose. We remain sight seer bloggers talking about THEIR agenda, bitching and moaning about it and remaining irrelevant.

We need to do this not only to do what is right, not only to become players in state politics, but as an essential organizing strategy of the Florida Progressive movement. With so many of us locked out of electoral politics by local establishment power structures and the campaign finance system, we need to make the initiative process a key part of our strategy. We need to be putting progressive initiatives on every ballot every two years. Maybe most important of all, this will get us organized in a real way. It forces us to organize and build the infrastructure that will extend to the candidate, party, grassroots and media spheres.

We need to form a steering committee to start planning. Now. We need to hash out the kind of tax reform that is both good progressive public policy but also something than can win at the ballot box. I believe the two are the same. We may need to qualify several tax reform initiatives for the ballot. We will need 610,000 signatures by May. I know, I know. It may be too late. The progressive infrastructure in this state is too weak. But we have to start some time. This forces us to get serious and this is an historic opportunity. And you never know. Lightning strikes. Maybe the 12 perfect people will coalesce who can make this happen. That’s all it takes. Including a sugar daddy and mommy.

Tomorrow: a progressive tax reform plan.

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