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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Who voted for those unpopular 2009 tag fees? And who didn't?



Former Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a series of unpopular increases in car and truck registration and license fees, which were supported overwhelmingly by Republicans in the Legislature -- and opposed by a lot of Democrats.

The tag fees were part of a bill dealing with highway safety issues (SB 1778) that passed in the 2009 session by a 40-0 vote in the Senate and by 74-43 in the House. The bill's sponsor was then-Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who said he did so in his role as chairman of a budget subcommittee overseeing the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

"It was always our understanding that these fees would be short-term," Fasano said Thursday. "We were absolutely desperate."

Every single Republican and Democrat in the Senate voted for them and, a roll call vote shows, every Democrat in the House voted against them.

At the time, they were considered politically unavoidable to close a huge budget deficit without raising taxes. But as Democrats were quick to point out, one of the Republicans who voted to raise tag fees was then-Rep. Jennifer Carroll, who would become Scott's lieutenant governor (she resigned last March). In trying to undermine Scott's claim of helping average Floridians' pocketbooks, Democrats are asking Scott: What took you so long?

Republicans who supported the fee hikes and are still in office include Reps. Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel, Steve Crisafulli of Merritt Island, Ed Hooper of Clearwater, Seth McKeel of Lakeland and Rob Schenck of Spring Hill, all members of Speaker Weatherford's leadership team in the House.

Democrats in the Senate who voted for the higher fees included Ted Deutch, Dan Gelber, Charlie Justice, Frederica Wilson and Nan Rich, who's running for governor. Four others who voted for them are still in the Senate: Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, Jeremy Ring of Margate, Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale and Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood.

The Senate Democratic Office on Thursday noted that seven of the 13 Senate Democrats who voted for the tag-fee bill also voted against the budget that included the fee increases that year. They were Dave Aronberg, Deutsch, Gelber, Joyner, Justice, Rich and Sobel. The office even resurrected a four-year-old news release from Justice, now a Pinellas County commissioner, in which he said he voted against the budget that year because it was "balanced on the backs of Florida's motorists ... (and) raising taxes on the little guy."

Only one Republican in the Legislature can claim to have consistently opposed the fees from the outset: then-Rep. Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange, now a state senator, who voted no in 2009.

[Last modified: Thursday, December 12, 2013 6:24pm]


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