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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

As House debates one plan, Rubio sells another



House Speaker Marco Rubio participated in a 10:30 a.m. phone conference with lobbyists and other interested parties as he tries to sell his constitutional amendment plan to swap property taxes with a 2.5 percent sales tax increase.

The call, arranged by the Republican Party of Florida, occurred as the House Policy and Budget Council was deep in debate over the other House plan: a tax rollback to 2001 that could cost local governments billions.

Rubio's push on the tax swap may lend fuel to the theory that the rollback is being used as a hammer to get approval for the tax swap. "So what are we here for?" asked Democratic Rep. Jack Seiler after hearing about the conference call.

Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, was at the House meeting and stressed during a break that there are two House plans. Rivera denied any scheme to entice Democrats, who have raised sharp objections to the rollback. "But If I were a city or county," Rivera said, "that constitutional thing may be looking real tasty."

Tallahassee lobbyist Steve Uhlfelder listened to the half-hour call. He said Rubio spoke the whole time, urging the audience not to heed dire predictions on the effect the sales tax would have on police and other services. Rubio argued Las Vegas and California still get visitors despite high sales taxes and he noted that newspaper editorial boards have supported local sales taxes. "If it had been an oral argument in a courtroom, he'd had won," Uhlfelder said.

-- Alex Leary and Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:37pm]


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