Florida’s analysts won’t revisit economic impact of minimum wage, utility ballot initiatives

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With talk of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour now at the forefront of American politics, here is a list of four CEOs who make more than $9,000 an hour.

The state’s top fiscal forecasters said Monday they won’t revisit their original financial impact statements for two 2020 ballot initiatives that could cause huge economic ripples in Florida – despite a recent Supreme Court opinion that it should.

One measure would boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years, and the other would lay the groundwork for dismantling the state’s large, investor-owned electricity companies.

Meanwhile, the Florida Chamber of Commerce released its own economic impact study Monday, saying deregulating the state’s big investor-owned power companies could cost state and local governments $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion a year in lost taxes and fees.

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Petitions, signatures, reviews and more all have to happen before an amendment goes onto a statewide ballot. Randi Atwood, Wochit

The odds on amendments:

“Voters are smart and they’ll understand that’s either going to mean fewer trash pickups in a month, less money for first responders, or tax increases to maintain the status quo,” Chamber spokesperson Edie Ousley said.

The Florida Financial Impact Estimating Conference submitted its original fiscal impact statements on the two proposals in March, before the Legislature changed the law with the passage of Chamber-backed House Bill 5, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law and became effective July 1.

Besides creating new hurdles for petition gatherers, it requires an economic impact on the state and local economy, and the overall impact to the state budget.

The new law gives the FIEC 75 days to complete the estimate after receiving a new ballot initiative from the Secretary of State. The deadline for the utility measure is Aug. 22 while the deadline for the minimum wage proposal is Aug. 31.

Amy Baker, coordinator of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said she agreed with Holger Ciupalo, policy coordinator for the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget “that you need the full 75 days, all of it.”

That’s what happened with their fiscal estimate on a proposed Medicaid expansion measure that has now been put on hold until 2022.

Rushing things would not be fair to anyone, she said, not the proponents of the measures, the opponents or the voters. “My feeling is, we don’t have time to meet to do a sufficiently credible job,” she said.

Don Langston, staff director for the House Ways and Means Committee, suggested conducting a literature review of the minimum wage issue, but Baker and others said that the same amount of literature didn’t exist for the utility breakup measure, and so they wouldn’t be equal.

Other members agreed that a literature review in itself doesn’t constitute a proper economic impact study.

“A literature review would fall short of a statutory estimated economic impact,” Ciupalo said.

The short, one-sentence letter to Attorney General Ashley Moody drafted at the meeting doesn’t explain the FIEC’s reasoning behind taking a pass.

“This should be it for these two,” Baker said. 

To which Ciupalo replied, “For now.”

Moody had asked the Supreme Court whether the financial analyses of the measures already reviewed should be amended, and the Supreme Court said yes, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The electricity deregulation measure is scheduled for a hearing before the Supreme Court Aug. 28.

Contact Schweers at jschweers@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.

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