New Competition Generates Tax Solutions to Address Climate Change:
Stetson University College of Law launched a new competition to galvanize students to develop innovative tax law policies that could fund solutions for sea level rise.
Though tax policy might not be the first discipline to come to mind in which to seek tools to combat climate change, attorney and author Richard O. “Dick” Jacobs felt confident Stetson students, if given the challenge, could mine it to great effect. Rising sea levels are a pressing issue for Florida’s future, and Jacobs thought funding a competition would jump start a conversation by focusing on tax policy solutions to help address the problem.
And so The Stetson Environmental Tax Policy Writing Competition: Tax Policy Solutions to Address Sea Level Rise was born. Students submitted their ideas in late spring, and a committee of tax and environmental lawyers judged the competition using the following criteria: (1) breadth and depth of analysis and sources, (2) creativity and originality, (3) objectivity and legal accuracy, (4) effectiveness of writing style, (5) practicality for addressing the issue, and (6) compliance with the contest rules.
Submissions could include proposed changes to the Florida Constitution and to Florida tax and regulatory law. The first and second place winners split a $1,000 cash prize. The winners of the inaugural competition were:
Daniel F. Town (first place) [From Futile to Utile: Addressing the Key Role of Florida’s Electric Utility Companies in Mitigating Sea-Level Rise:
Florida’s unique tax structure, revenue sources, and diverse environment provide an opportunity to address sea-level rise through the lens of the highest carbon emitters: electric utility companies. The proposed solutions include:
 a gradual increase in taxes and fees on some aspects of Florida electric utility companies,
 offering tax credits and subsidies for transitioning to more environmentally-friendly power-generation, and
 reforming electric utility regulations as an incentive to adopt a more climate-conscious, public welfare approach — all while maintaining a profit-making structure that can both maintain revenue and reduce the impact of sea level rise in Florida.
An analysis of three potential solutions indicates that the case for carbon dioxide mitigation initiatives is strong and able to yield significant revenue over time, while simultaneously contributing to the overall reduction in emissions to help reduce the impact of sea level rise in Florida and beyond.
Daniel Raymer (second place) [Plastic Tax: An Alternative to Plastic Alternatives:
With [the] impending loss of a significant portion of the tourist economy and the loss of property taxes generated by the beach-front real estate on the horizon, the Florida government’s need to plan for contingencies cannot be overstated. While this threat of rising sea levels affects Florida on a localized scale, its cause is attributable worldwide and any action to stop rising sea levels would need to be made on a global scale. As a result, the idea of halting rising sea level on a localized scale is not realistic: the focal point at this juncture should be mitigation. Specifically, in Florida’s case, the goal should be to generate an adequate disaster fund to pay for beach nourishment projects, the potential loss of property-tax revenue, and the loss of tourist-generated revenue.
The scope of this article will be divided into two sections: part one will cover a brief background of rising sea levels, the projections for future sea level rise, and Florida’s unique vulnerability to said sea level rise; part two will propose a hybrid of upstream and downstream taxes on single-use plastics that will not only potentially deter overuse of such plastics, but also generate an adequate disaster fund to alleviate the state’s burden of funding the future damages and revenue loss caused by the threat of rising sea levels.]