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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Haridopolos signs Norquist's no-tax pledge, but history shows it can be broken

notax.jpgMike Haridopolos is the first candidate in the Republican U.S. Senate primary to sign Grover Norquist's no new tax pledge, getting a plug from the man himself.

By doing so, Haridopolos revives questions about his support of a $1 cigarette tax in 2009. The issue was painful for many Republicans, including Gov. Charlie Crist, and led to some creative wordplay. The tax was described as a "user fee" and "surcharge." Norquist was not fooled. "It's a tax," he told the St. Petersburg Times in April of that year.

Haridopolos was so worried about running afoul of the pledge that he called Norquist to ask if billions in property tax cuts enacted in the previous two years would offset tax increases in 2009. Nope, Norquist said.

Candidates get a fresh start when they run for a new office -- in Haridopolos' case, from state to federal. But it's an issue he'll have to deal with during the 2012 primary.

"It's still one of the hardest votes I've made because I want to be as consistent as possible, and that's why I have regrets about it," Haridopolos recently said, explaining that he justified the vote at the time because nonsmokers were effectively subsidizing smokers through Medicare expenses.

"A tax is a tax,'' he acknowledged.

Here's who Haridopolos' rivals stand on the issue: George LeMieux was not in office and Adam Hasner voted against the tax when it first came up but ultimately voted for a budget balanced with that tax and other fee increases. That could expose him to criticism, too, and LeMieux clearly intends to use the issue against his opponents.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:50am]


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