Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, the philosopher, takes last stab at taxes




A year ago, House Speaker Marco Rubio was launching an ambitious sales tax swap to eliminate property taxes on primary homes. It died, and a watered down Amendment 1 made it on the ballot.

But Rubio, beginning his eighth and final year in the House, is not giving up. The sales tax swap has given way to plans to cap all property taxes at 1.35 percent and a strict limit on government revenue and spending. Rubio likes them both but deemed the total cap, tied to inflation and population growth, a more "comprehensive" approach.

"Even as fiscally responsible as we thought we were being, we allowed state government to grow faster than the ability of our economy to sustain it. We are now paying the price for that. So we need to put in place some limitation that in the future will prevent us from doing the same."

Rubio disclosed that House staff has been working on the concept with the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which took it up earlier this week. "If they can't get it done, then we're going to try."

The Miami Republican, sounding more Jeb Bush than Charlie Crist, sees opportunity in the current budget crunch, a way to reduce the size of government and keep it in check with a cap.

He said the Legislature needs to build a budget based on the roughly $70-billion available this year, "not the $70-billion plus some reserves. Not $70-billion plus some gambling."

Rubio has a meeting tomorrow with university presidents and said he will advocate a stronger emphasis on preparing students for the jobs of the future. "I think universities need to start looking at the system and saying, 'OK, how many more psychology and philosophy majors should we be producing?'"

He said he is comfortable with a tuition increase of 5 to 6 percent as long as more money is put into need-based financial aid.

So what's next for Rubio? Chuckling at a question he's heard from probably every capital reporter in the past two days (his office arranged half-hour pre-session interviews) Rubio said he's truly not sure.

With that, he started to sound like one of those philosophy majors.

"When I was elected to public office 10 years ago .. I was 26 years old, single, no children. Now I'm going to be 37 years old, four children and married with someone who has much to say about my life as I do, and rightfully so. So I don't know where I'll be in 2010. In 2010, I might be coaching my son's first flag football team.

"Those are real life changing decisions that one makes. Do you walk away from that in order to take on a career opportunity? And it doesn't have to be governor. It can be CEO of a starting company or it can be some opportunity in a business that asks me to move to another state. ...

"I really have changed in the last 10 years, maybe in the last five. I used to have it wrong. I really thought what defined you in life was what your title was, what you accomplished, how much money you make. I bought into all that early on. In my time in politics, I've met a lot of very successful people that have made a lot of money -- you see them on covers of magazines -- and you would think they have everything you would want. By every definition of popular culture, they are successful. And these are very unhappy people. They have no relationship with their children. Their marriages are a shell. They have a lot of money and a lot of titles and a lot of plagues and a lot of honors and yet they are very unhappy. I have no aspirations to be one of those people."

But as Times reporter segued into a question about what he Rubio like to be remembered for, the ambitious side emerged again. With a smile, Rubio quipped: "Probably the most important chapter in that story is yet to be written."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:10pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours