Foster offers anti-tax cap shirts to lawmakers
ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayor Bill Foster gave the 12-member Pinellas County legislative delegation T-shirts opposing a tax cap for local governments with the slogan, "Don't TABOR me bro!"
Foster, sly enough to play off the 'Don't tase me bro!" episode from the 2008 election, is among the local officials worried state lawmakers will pass the TABOR cap, commonly know as a taxpayer bill of rights. Senate President Mike Haridopolous has made it a priority. (Foster paid for the shirts himself, city lobbying chief Todd Yost said.)
However, lawmakers didn't get too excited about his idea. State Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, noted the shirt alone would trigger the ban on gifts for lawmakers. New state Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, was even more reluctact, given his advocacy for TABOR several years ago on the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. Corcoran suggested Foster ough to focus his time going "line by line" on ways to make government more efficient.
"Voters clearly said, be it national, state or local, we don't want to the government to get bigger, we wan't government getting smaller," said Corcoran, discounting recent years' cuts because spending ballooned for seven years earlier.
Foster said he tried to hand out T-shirts to remind the Pinellas County delegation that, rhetoric aside, local governments have responsibilities that must be met.
"We have to take care our homeless citizens, we have residents who rely on our parks and recreation department," Foster said. "We have to do public safety."
He opposes the cap because it erodes the power of local governments to provide essential services.
"It's all about home rule," Foster told Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler.
Among other notes from the three-hour hearing at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg:
-- State Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, was named chairman. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will be vice chairman.
-- Reps. Jeff Brandes, a newly elected St. Petersburg Republican, and Rick Kriseman, a third-term Democrat from St. Pete, were absent due to family travel, aides said.
A final delegation hearing to decide local bills and hear from interest groups seeking support will be in January.