Just two weeks ago, Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who’s trying to replace retiring Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), signed a pledge promising not to raise taxes.
Yesterday he signed a budget that did just that.
Florida’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes about $2 billion in tax and fee increases, including a $1 per-pack hike in the cigarette tax.
Crist is still trying to have his cake and eat it too, claiming that he still hasn’t supported a broad-based tax increase, since not everybody smokes — it is estimated that about 2 million Floridians smoke, or roughly one in five residents over 18.
The Americans for Tax Reform pledge for congressional candidates requires signers to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses … and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
Crist could get off on a technicality here since he’s not in Congress and the budget doesn’t raise income taxes. But wait, he did sign a different ATR pledge — one for governors — that requires signatories commit to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
Last month, ATR jumped all over Florida House leaders who signed the pledge and allowed the state budget to include tax increases.
Responsible legislators don’t raise taxes on their constituents, especially when they can least afford it. Responsible people look to solve problems (cutting excessive spending), rather than looking to patch them with taxes on a declining source of revenue (cigarette taxes).
The Orlando Sentinel notes Crist invokes conservative demigod Ronald Reagan in his defense:
I view it more as a health issue than a tax issue … Ronald Reagan used to say if you want to kill something, tax it. It wouldn’t be bad if we killed smoking. It would save a lot of lives.
Crist might want to avoid comparisons to Reagan, lest Florida voters draw a connection to his vice president, George H.W. Bush, and the “Read my lips: No new taxes” debacle.
Update: Americans for Tax Reform spokesman Adam Radman emails the following statement:
[W]ith the signing of these bills, Crist has broken his Pledge at the state level. We’re disappointed Crist has broken his state pledge which he took to oppose all tax increases of whatever kind. He’s right though about the Federal pledge–it applies only to Federal income taxes. We’re hoping he’ll recommit himself to Florida taxpayers and do better with his Federal pledge than he has with his state Pledge.