This weekend I was honored to speak with more than 50 energetic and engaged community members from St. Petersburg at a town hall meeting organized by the Common Ground Project. The event brought together experts in affordable housing, environment, equality, and government accountability – issues that concern all Floridians.
Equity was an overarching theme of the town hall. Often those that suffer the most earn the least. Despite Florida’s lack of an income tax, our state tax structure disproportionately affects the lowest earners. Holly Bullard, Chief Strategy and Operations Officer at the Florida Policy Institute, noted that our state’s highest earners spend about 2.3% of their yearly income on local and state taxes (primarily sales taxes) while those that make less than $18,000 a year pay 13%, comparatively.
I spoke about the environment, notably the proposed toll roads that will cut through rural communities across the state. In addition to destroying wetlands and wildlife habitat, toll roads represent an additional “tax” – an unaffordable transportation fee for families just struggling to get by. Just getting to work every day will cost families extra money. Investing taxpayer funds, instead, into multi-modal transportation options – especially those that use cleaner energy sources – will better support the transportation needs of all people while reducing our contribution to climate change.
Environmental justice marries equity and environment, and it is an issue that FCV takes seriously. Poor environmental conditions and climate change can impact those in the lowest income brackets most severely, with heavy tax burdens and tarnished resources. Clean water and air and access to natural areas should be available to all people, and we need to ensure that all communities are treated fairly.
The mission of FCV is to elect lawmakers who protect our environment and healthy communities for everyone. We hold our elected officials accountable to their constituents – those with very little in their pockets as well as those that contribute thousands towards campaigns. We will continue to speak to the value of environmental equity and advocate for a conserved Florida for all of us.