Sunday, June 24, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact: Fla. Republicans say it took Charlie Crist only two weeks to break no-new tax pledge

The Republican Party of Florida is launching a pre-emptive strike against former golden boy Charlie Crist, who very well could run for governor in 2014 as a Democrat. In a new Web ad, the state GOP spoofs the History Channel with a segment called "This Day in CRIST-ory."

The date: May 28, 2009. (The date should read May 27, by the way.)

The setting: Tallahassee.

The story: Then-Republican Gov. Crist is signing a $66.5 billion budget that includes a $1-a-pack cigarette tax and higher fees on driver's licenses and motor vehicle tags. The new taxes and fees, which are estimated to generate $2.2 billion, are needed to pass a balanced state budget — and were supported by Republicans in the Legislature — but also break Crist's pledge not to raise taxes.

"Two weeks after signing a taxpayer protection pledge, (Crist) breaks it!" the Republican Party's ad claims.

At PolitiFact Florida, we didn't need a history lesson to remember the basics of the 2009 budget. But we did wonder about the state GOP's assertion that Crist had the gall to break a pledge just two weeks after he signed it.

Crist, it turns out, did sign a taxpayer protection pledge two weeks before signing the budget into law. We found that through a press release from … the Republican Party of Florida.

At the time, Crist had recently announced he was running for the U.S. Senate, and Republicans far and wide were rallying around his candidacy. (Well, except former House Speaker Marco Rubio. That's for another day in CRIST-ory.)

But the pledge Crist signed on May 14, 2009, was for federal candidates, not state ones. And it was specific to income taxes. Not taxes in general.

Crist signed a pledge from Americans for Tax Reform, a well-known antitax group led by Grover Norquist. In it, Crist promised to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and ... oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

A tax pledge yes, but one that wouldn't be broken with a tax on cigarettes or motor vehicle fees.

That doesn't get Crist out of hot water, however.

Crist signed another taxpayer pledge from Americans for Tax Reform in June 2005. In that pledge, Crist promised to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes."

"Pledges are important, but actions speak louder," Crist said in an email to supporters in December 2005. "Throughout my years of public service I have stood squarely against tax increases and will continue to do so as governor."

Crist's 2009 budget signature does appear to violate his older pledge — particularly in allowing the $1-a-pack cigarette tax to become law.

"The cigarette tax is appropriate, and I really view it more as a health issue than I do as a tax issue," Crist said May 19, 2009.

When reached for comment, Republican Party of Florida spokesman Matt Moon admitted the mistake in the ad's phrasing. "While it's true we should have been more precise and not used the words 'two weeks' ... he did sign a taxpayer protection pledge that he did break," Moon said. "And we're still going to call him out on it."

Our ruling

In a Web ad, the state GOP portrayed Crist as a man who didn't keep his word when it comes to raising taxes. The record there is pretty clear. Crist signed a pledge saying he would oppose efforts to increase taxes, yet signed a budget that included a $1-a-pack cigarette tax.

However, the state Republican Party went unnecessarily far when it tried to say that it took Crist just two weeks to break that promise.

The pledge he signed two weeks before approving the cigarette tax did not apply.

We rate the claim Mostly False.

Read more fact-checks at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

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