The Florida Senate decided in a 27-13 vote Monday that low taxes and spending should be among the state’s fundamental principles.

Once the TABOR-style “Smart Cap” on government bonding and revenue clears the House, it will appear on the 2012 ballot, allowing voters to decide whether it should become part of the state’s constitution.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said the debate over the measure addresses a philosophical question: Should the government be allowed to grow?

Sen. Chris Smith, D-Oakland Park, argued the measure belonged in state law, not the constitution, which should be reserved for the bedrock principles of government.

“Every time government has money, it spends it,” Bogdanoff countered. The resolution brings to voters the question: Should the government be able to increase revenue in the future?

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, who has long backed such a measure, said in a statement praising the vote:

During better economic times, the natural desire in the past was to spend all the tax revenue the government received. It was simply hard to say no. This cap forces future legislators to spend responsibly, save for a rainy day, and return any excess taxes back to Floridians.

Opponents of the measure have argued it would dangerously and unnecessarily constrain future lawmakers. Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, said in her statement:

The same Republicans who have controlled this state for the past 12 years are now admitting they’re addicted to spending, and in need of a drastic measure to break the habit. Because they can’t help themselves, they’re asking Floridians to sign off on a controversial policy destined to weaken even further our state’s waning economic power and tepid job growth.

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