GOP unable to find shortcut to tax relief

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Published May 5, 2007

Who would have thought a room full of Republicans couldn't figure how to cut taxes?

Look no farther than the Florida Capitol.

The angst came to a head when the GOP-run Legislature failed to reach consensus on property tax reform during the 60-day session that ended Friday, forcing it to reconvene next month -- at a six-figure cost to taxpayers.

The intraparty tension had bubbled up earlier, when the state GOP had to chuck a website promoting the hard-line tax cut touted by House Speaker Marco Rubio of Miami but not the more moderate ideas offered by state senators or Gov. Charlie Crist.

For a party that claims to be intent on easing taxpayers' pain, how do you explain a bill allowing higher road tolls and a state budget calling for a half-billion more school dollars from local property taxes?

Having said that, Rubio and Crist may not feel a full-on backlash personally.

Rubio has made it clear he's on taxpayers' side (except on the days when the public library can't afford to stay open) and the next five weeks gives him more time to rile up the call-and-blog crowd.

The break also gives Crist a change to look frugal when he wears his spectacles on his nose and wields the veto pen. (Pay no attention to the estimated $270 million that Crist's pet project, an ''anti-murder'' prison-building program, is expected to cost the state over the next five years.)


Yet for a governor with a 73 percent approval rating, Crist didn't always get his way. Lawmakers pared down his proposed salary hike for state employees and merit pay raise for teachers. They denied his requested $38 million for avian flu shots, $20 million for stem cell research, $100 million for environmentally endangered lands and $1.3 million for a physical fitness commission. Meanwhile, they handed him a 5 percent increase in college tuition that he didn't want.

What Crist lacked in the budget he made up for in goodwill, especially from Democrats grateful for his embrace of felons' voting rights and a voter paper trail. Who could have predicted that a GOP-led Legislature in the state that hosted the 2000 presidential recount would junk electronic voting machines -- after a congressional election contested by a Democrat?

Efforts fell short to make more kids eligible for subsidized health insurance and direct more money to urban school districts in South Florida.

A law requiring HMOs to cover a certain percentage of mental health care for low-income Medicaid patients was repealed.

Poor folks who feel shafted by the budget can always take comfort in the fact that the Florida Marlins will have to keep playing in the rain.


A Legislature that made sure dogs could be buried with their owners didn't even give a hearing to the Equal Rights Amendment. A wrongfully convicted man who spent 24 years in jail didn't get a dime, but the quarters will flow at Broward County casinos, thanks to a bill expanding the hours and number of slot machines.

Run out of coins? No problem. The bill also allows casinos to open ATMs.

Also passed: a bill that makes it more difficult to file an elections law complaint against candidates who take illegal campaign donations or run misleading campaign ads.

Politicians who can't get together on tax relief sure know how to protect themselves.