Florida’s Crist Breaks No New Taxes Pledge

Published September 1, 2009

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has come under withering fire for violating a “no new taxes” pledge he made when he ran for governor in 2007.

The governor, now running for retiring Republican U.S. Senator Mel Martinez’s seat, signed into law about $2 billion in new taxes and fee increases in May. Critics are outraged at Crist for violating his pledge and are worried about the dire effect the new taxes may have on Florida’s already-wobbly economy.

Cato Institute tax and budget expert Chris Edwards expressed dismay.

“I am very disappointed in Gov. Crist because the Cato Institute gave him an A in our fiscal report card last year. We did this because Gov. Crist cut property taxes, and he did not increase taxes in his first year-and-a-half in office,” Edwards said. “Unfortunately, the governor will no longer be in the book this year. It is truly disappointing that he did that.”

Colleague Rips Decision

Marco Rubio, Florida’s former Speaker of the House and Crist’s chief opponent in the Republican Party, believes the governor’s decision to raise taxes reveals a great deal about his character.

“All I can say here is that this is where principles really matter,” Rubio said. “Too many of our political leaders are more interested in the ebb and flow of polls, about being ‘popular,’ rather than doing what is right.”

The Club for Growth, a free market advocacy organization, also reacted negatively to Crist’s tax hike. Club President Chris Chocola dubbed Crist the organization’s “Comrade of the Month.”

“It’s one thing to change your position, and quite another to flat-out break your word. Charlie Crist sent a strong message to Florida voters today that he’s just another politician,” Chocola said.

Bill Decouples Corporate Tax

Joseph Henchman, a tax policy analyst at the Tax Foundation in Washington, DC, notes the $2 billion in tax increases Crist signed into law includes an additional shadow tax increase.

Henchman noted the bill “decouples Florida’s corporate income tax from the federal corporate income tax, retroactive to January 1, 2009. In 2009, the federal government extended a generous depreciation deduction as part of the stimulus package, and Florida now joins several other states in refusing to apply the provision to state taxes.”

‘System is Broken’

Rubio said the tax system in Florida is already onerous, and raising taxes will not fix that.

“The tax system is broken,” Rubio said. “It discourages job creation, and it discourages risk-taking. We need tax reform badly. We need to consider the flat tax; we need to simplify our tax code.”

Thomas Cheplick ([email protected]) writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts.