As Hernando Republicans quarrel, keep focus on taxes

As best as I can tell, the split in the local Republican Party goes something like this:

There's a moderate wing made up of county Commissioner Jeff Stabins, commission candidates John Druzbick and Billy Healis, blogger Anna Liisa Covell and Realtor Gary Schraut.

The conservative camp — or, as Covell calls them, the "slash-and-burn, far right" faction — includes commission candidates Jon "Jaz" Zydenbos, Hubert "Wayne" Dukes, Jim Adkins, tax-cut advocate Linda Hayward and several leaders of the county Republican Executive Committee, or REC.

I don't pretend the list is all-inclusive. Also, some of these folks downplayed the party's differences, saying they can easily be patched up after Tuesday's primary.

"I don't see any major split," said Ana Trinque, chairwoman of the REC. If there is nastiness, she added, it's the work of Covell, who ran unsuccessfully for the commission in 2004 and 2000.

"She's bitter about losing and needs to move on," Trinque said.

Covell, on the other hand, said this about standing up to leaders who are pushing the party toward irresponsible tax cuts and improperly backing Adkins, whom Covell described on her blog as a "lackey and boot-licker for the REC chairwoman and state Republican committeeman for Hernando County."

Yes, maybe her language is at odds with the name of her blog — Hernando County "A Positive Approach" — but I think she has a point.

Adkins' contributors include state committeeman Tom Hogan, committeewoman Gail Samples and Trinque's husband, Art. Even Ana Trinque's car displays an Adkins bumper sticker.

"My husband put it there," she said.

It doesn't sound completely fair, but, really, how much do we care? The question of whether executive committee leaders can take sides in primaries comes up so often in both parties it's almost like sign-stealing squabbles.

No, the real issue is: Who's right about taxes?

Adkins has moderated his stance since he supported (passively, he insists) the mean-spirited, drastic approach of the Government Gone Wild seminars last year.

"I can't jump up and say we need a 30 or 40 percent cut, but I think there could be a lesser cut," he said.

So, I'd say he's less wrong than he used to be.

Then there is Zydenbos, who says the county government can trim $40-million from its budget, half of which can be made up by putting jail inmates to work.

"The jail has to be revenue neutral with the raising of crops and cattle," he said.

He also insists rising property taxes — not speculation and irresponsible lending, as most analysts say — were the main culprit in the collapse of the housing market.

So the market can only be restored, he said, through tax cuts. This stance forgives the selfish behavior that got us into this mess, just as promises to cut taxes appeal to the selfish instincts of voters.

It ignores that the county's millage rate has fallen by one-third in the past decade, that the county faces a $17.2-million drop in general fund revenues this year and — as property values continue to drop — more of the same in the future, said county budget director George Zoettlein.

If we care about the county's long-term ability to maintain services and facilities, this approach is really wrong.

As Hernando Republicans quarrel, keep focus on taxes 08/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 3:25pm]

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