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Amendment 6

As Florida's coasts become lined with high-rise condos, mansions and luxury marinas, developers are looking to expand residential construction, particularly along remaining waterfront in areas that have been historically industrial, kicking up property values astronomically.

As a result, property taxes have skyrocketed statewide for maritime businesses such as marinas, bait shops and boat yards, squeezed under the current state policy that assesses property at its "highest and best" potential use. That means a marina could be taxed as if it were a condo complex.

Amendment 6 aims to throw a lifeline to Florida's multibillion-dollar maritime industry by changing the way these businesses are taxed, based on their current use rather than the property's potential. Like other amendments, it will require 60 percent approval to pass.

The amendment is needed because current policy "is the equivalent of being taxed on what you could potentially make rather than on what you're making," said Michele Miller, spokeswoman for the Marine Industries Association of Florida.

There is no organized opposition.

Miller called the amendment "a fairness issue" and noted these businesses represent an $18 billion a year industry in Florida, employing 220,000 people.

A few waterfront areas -- including some in the Keys -- have already shuttered under the condo crush, taxed out of business.

Many also fear that the fall of the working waterfront could mean less access for typical Floridians, as mom-and-pop boat yards are replaced with luxury marinas.

The measure is proposed by the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which generally meets once every 20 years to push constitutional amendments and make recommendations to the Legislature about changes to current law.

The measure's passage could mean less tax revenue for cash-strapped local governments, but the Florida Association of Counties supports it.

``We think preserving small businesses within our communities is important and looking at that greater good over that potential loss of tax revenue is ... the highest priority,'' said association spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller.

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