Taxes, Insurance Dominate CFO, Gubernatorial Hopefuls Forum

June 5, 2006

Taxes aren’t the answer to a stable economy, an affordable housing market and an educated work force, the Republican candidates for governor said Friday.

“I’m against taxes,” Attorney General Charlie Crist said several times during a forum at a meeting of Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit tax and state budget watchdog group.

Crist said the recent repeal of intangible taxes on stocks and bonds, which only served to penalize those who save money, was the right thing to do for the state.

“It took a number of years to make it happen, but we finally got to the homeland,” he said.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher agreed, also noting that property taxes must be reined in if the state is to continue to feed its thriving economy.

“We are pricing small businesses out of the ability to be in business,” said Gallagher, who is challenging Crist for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. “I want to see a limit on property taxes to inflation plus growth.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, who is challenging state Sen. Rod Smith for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, also agreed that skyrocketing property taxes must be stopped.

“Something is fundamentally wrong when two people are living next door to each other and can have the same services and one is paying 10 times more than the other,” Davis said.

Davis added that he wouldn’t have voted for the intangible tax repeal, noting that those with money must pay their fair share.
And tax breaks, he said, aren’t the right way to lure business to the state.

Incentives “should be icing, not the cake,” Davis said, adding that the Legislature’s approval of millions of dollars to bring The Scripps Research Institute to Florida was misguided.

The best way to lure business is to provide an educated work force, he said.

“I want to invest in education. I want to invest in teacher salaries,” Davis said.

Crist and Gallagher also agreed that the state should not tax consumers on Internet sales, while Davis noted the Legislature needs to “level the playing field for merchants and make sure people are paying their share of taxes when they buy goods over the Internet.”

The candidates for chief financial officer also participated in the forum that gave each hopeful one minute to respond to a question.
Alex Sink, a Democrat and the former president of Bank of America’s Florida operations, said she wants to bring a competitive insurance market back to the state.

“The state of Florida does not need to be running the largest insurance company in the state,” she said, referring to Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s carrier of last resort.

Sate Rep. Randy Johnson, who is challenging Senate President Tom Lee for the Republican nod for CFO, said insurance will be his key campaign platform.

“My passion, the fire in my belly, is this insurance issue, and we are in a crisis,” Johnson said.

“We’re about to have a disaster on our hands,” he said. “Citizens is bankrupt. (How) do you think we’re going to pay for this next hurricane? It’s going to come from our bottom line.”
Lee, too, said Citizens must be privatized into a competitive insurance market.

“We’re trying to create a system where everyone pays their fair share,” he said.

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