Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Governor backs off a bit

TALLAHASSEE — A day after expressing his willingness to impose a short-term foreclosure moratorium and consider a 50-cent increase in the cigarette tax to boost Florida's faltering economy, Gov. Charlie Crist showed restraint on both ideas Tuesday as each drew resistance from industries.

After meeting with a banking industry lobbyist, Crist said "my preference" on stemming foreclosures is voluntary industry cooperation rather than an official declaration, such as an executive order that could face legal challenges. He plans to make a formal announcement next week.

"These are challenging times, and people need help," Crist said.

Crist said he might limit the freeze to people in homesteaded properties, not owners of second or vacation homes, whom he described as "people who are speculating and have several Lexuses in the driveway."

Alex Sanchez, president of the Florida Bankers Association, urged homeowners who have defaulted to contact their banks and work out payment plans. The industry resists formal government action.

"Our banks are willing to work with every Floridian who lives in their primary residence who has a need and obviously no mortgage fraud was involved," he told the Capitol News Service after meeting with Crist. "That's been a long-standing policy."

Sanchez used the "two Lexuses in the driveway" analogy that Crist repeated almost word for word.

On the subject of cigarettes, the tobacco industry signaled it would strongly resist an effort to increase the excise tax, now at 34 cents a pack, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

"I'm not warm and fuzzy about that," Crist said of a higher cigarette tax, which on Monday he appeared open to, saying, "I don't want to be dogmatic on anything." Crist stopped short of outright opposition and said the size of the deficit demands that all options be considered.

Some Republicans said they are willing to vote for a 50-cent cigarette tax hike.

"I'd probably be okay with that, personally," said state Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, who said smokers' illnesses drive up Florida's Medicaid health care costs. "I am not for continuing to cut the budget. We need more revenue."

Jones also has backed other new revenue sources, such as video lottery terminals at pari-mutuel sites and an extension of the sales tax to Internet sales.

A bill to raise the cigarette tax (HB 11) has been filed for the next session and is co-sponsored by Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg.

A spokesman for one of the largest tobacco makers said cigarette taxes fall heavier on low- and moderate-income people and that as the number of smokers declines, it's a "declining and unstable" revenue source. The industry has a ready-made list of talking points for opponents to use in arguing against higher taxes on cigarettes.

"In tough economic times, this tax or user fee falls on real people, real working Floridians," said Frank Lester of Reynolds American, corporate parent of R.J. Reynolds, which sells the Camel, Doral, Winston and Kool brands and has about 26 percent of the Florida market.

Lester said tobacco sales also help Florida's small retail stores make a profit.

Rick McAllister of the Florida Retail Federation voiced concern that Florida might raise the tax on a product "so easily accessible" elsewhere, such as on Indian reservations or across state lines in Georgia and Alabama.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Governor backs off a bit 11/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 28, 2008 5:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  2. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119
  3. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  4. For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Blake Snell starting, Wilson Ramos cashing in


    The Rays open their final road series of the season tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is also where they played their first of the season.

    LHP Blake Snell will be on the mound for the Rays, looking to continue his successful late-season run, in which he is 4-0, 2,57 over his last eight starts.

    Tonight marks Wilson Ramos' 55th start of the season.
  5. Cannon Fodder podcast: Considering Gerald McCoy's comments


    Greg Auman talks about Gerald McCoy's comments — both about fan criticism online and Donald Trump — in the latest episode of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Gerald McCoy, front, said Monday that he would love to have a conversation with any of the fans who take to social media to criticize him and his Bucs teammates. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]