Florida Solar Month: What’s on the ballot for the August Primary election?

During the month of August, SACE will be blogging on #FloridaSolarMonth to promote solar in the Sunshine State. During August, Floridians will be considering a pro-solar amendment on the August Primary ballot. This blog series is to educate voters on this ballot initiative and help them prepare a voting plan, since turnout can often be lower in primary elections. To follow along and read other blogs in this series, click here.

What’s on the August Primary ballot?

This question will depend on which county in Florida you are registered to vote in. To find your sample ballot, find your local Supervisor of Elections who manages the voting in your community. For easy access we’ve linked the websites below for the bigger counties in Florida where we anticipate voter turnout to be high.

Where is Amendment 4 on the ballot?

Although each county in Florida has a different ballot, we are expecting Amendment 4 to be on the second page or back of the ballot. Here’s a graphic to show the Amendment title and language as it appears on the ballot. It will be in English and Spanish (and possibly others languages depending on where you are voting).

 

What does a “yes on 4″ vote mean?

Florida voters will have an opportunity to significantly lower solar energy costs on August 30th – simply by voting YES on Amendment 4. The proposed amendment, if passed, will exempt solar systems from the tangible personal property tax– the most burdensome of the taxes – for a period of 20 years. For you tax wonks, we’ll dig into the details of the tax in a moment.

A YES vote on Amendment 4 lowers solar energy costs by lowering taxes on solar installations – because the tangible personal property tax is passed on to customers in the form of increased solar power prices of up to 5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). That’s a big deal in Florida where a couple cents can make or break the economics of going solar. Better solar economics means more solar development, which lays the groundwork for cleaner air and a more sustainable future for the next generation.

The title and summary of the amendment below can sound complicated, but the concept is simple: lower taxes = lower solar energy costs.

 

What is the title and text of Amendment 4?

Title: SOLAR DEVICES OR RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCE DEVICES; EXEMPTION FROM CERTAIN TAXATION AND ASSESSMENT.

Text: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to exempt from ad valorem taxation the assessed value of solar or renewable energy source devices subject to tangible personal property tax, and to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit consideration of such devices in assessing the value of real property for ad valorem taxation purposes. This amendment takes effect January 1, 2018, and expires on December 31, 2037.

What else should I know about Amendment 4?

  • The term “renewable energy source device” includes solar systems.
  • “Ad valorem” means a tax rate applied to a value. For instance, for the tangible personal property tax, if a new solar system cost $20,000 and the county’s “millage (tax) rate is 2.0 %, then the first year tangible personal property tax on the solar system is $400. Ouch!  The system is taxed annually on declining value – as it depreciates.
  • Additionally, the Amendment precludes solar systems from increasing the value of a home or business when the county appraiser assesses it for the real estate tax.
  • Lastly, the exemption from these taxes will last for 20 years – enough time to allow solar to become a meaningful resource in Florida’s energy mix.

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