TAMPA — As Congress prepares to debate President Barack Obama's budget, Republican Sen. Mel Martinez said Monday the proposal creates an unacceptable deficit and needs to be trimmed.
His first targets: a plan that would penalize polluters who exceed permitted greenhouse gas emissions, and the president's proposal for revamping health care.
Speaking in Tampa, Martinez said the cap-and-trade plan, expected to raise $646 billion and promote a green economy, is dangerous for Florida, which depends on coal for energy.
"We have no availability of wind, we have no availability of solar, we have no hydroelectric. We really have to rely on what we're doing," he said.
Under the cap-and-trade system, the government would cap greenhouse gas emissions. Companies that exceed those limits could buy credits from companies that emit less greenhouse gas than permitted.
Martinez said that will mean higher bills for energy customers and hurt people on fixed incomes. "The last thing we need is what's essentially going to be an additional sales tax, regressive as can be, of $646 billion for the American people at a time when people are having a hard time making ends meet," he said.
Martinez said he supports green technologies, but "there has to be more of a gradual transition from one thing to another than what this budget proposes."
Martinez also blasted Obama's health care plan, projected to cost $600 billion. "Every American ought to be insured," he said. "That ought to be done in the private sector, with private insurance, with government help."
Martinez made his remarks at an event sponsored by the Tampa Bay Partnership, an economic development organization, in the offices of the Tampa Port Authority, where last month port commissioner Carl Lindell called the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba insane and indefensible.
Martinez, the first Cuban-born U.S. senator, said the 47-year-old embargo is the only way to force Cuba to improve its record on human rights.
Martinez will not seek re-election to his Senate seat in 2010. Although he has yet to announce his intentions, Gov. Charlie Crist is considering a run for the position.
"I may secretly have a favorite," Martinez said. "But the governor would be a great successor."
Janet Zink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3401.