Florida: Nasty Tax Talk in Gubernatorial Campaign


| | Bookmark and Share
In Florida, two Republican gubernatorial candidates are duking it out in advance of the September 5 primary election. Frontrunner Charlie Crist and distant-second Tom Gallagher have been engaged in a spirited who's-more-conservative battle for the last month, and in a recent debate Crist (who has moderate positions on issues such as same-sex civil unions, stem cell research and abortion) set the tone for the tax debate by asserting that "I have never supported a new tax, and I never will, unlike my opponent."

In a state that confronts fundamentally worrying structural problems in its tax system, this approach hardly establishes Crist as green-eyeshades material. But it gets worse. Apparently what Crist is referring to with the "unlike my opponent" swipe is that Gallagher supported a 1 cent hike in the state sales tax to pay for prison construction-- in 1993. So the last time Gallagher thought a tax increase was necessary was before the Internet was invented (as far as most people are concerned, anyway) and that makes him a liberal? A truly execrable anti-Gallagher website elaborates on this theme by calling the Gallagher prison tax idea "the largest tax increase in Florida history."

If you wonder how a 1 percent hike in a sales tax that's already 6 percent can be the "largest in history", then you're smarter (or at least more honest) than the creators of the aforementioned website. After all, the 1 cent hike enacted in 1988 that pushed the rate from 5 cents to 6, and the 1 cent hike enacted in 1982 that knocked the rate up from 4 to 5, were not smaller than the Gallagher-supported 1 cent idea in any meaningful way. Sales taxes bring in a little bit more every year as Florida's population grows and prices go up. That means each cent of the sales tax brings in more and more-- and also means that any proposal to increase the rate will bring in more as time goes on. [And, of course, you want the yield of a tax to increase over time, because inflation drives the cost of funding public services up each year as well.]

Gallagher's hands aren't clean either, however:
Gallagher pointed out that Crist in the 1990s supported a penny-per-pound tax on sugar to pay for Everglades cleanup, although his opponent now insists that was a fee increase.
It's probably too much to expect these guys to seriously analyze the flaws of the Florida tax system in a debate (or, sadly, at any time during the course of the campaign), but this is just horrendous. Can't wait to see what the Democratic candidates are up to...
Sign Up for Email Digest

CTJ Social Media


ITEP Social Media


Categories