Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Scott to ask lawmakers to cut auto registration fee enacted under Crist

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will announce today in Tampa that he will ask lawmakers to cut auto registration fees by $401 million, saving the typical motorist $25 a year and bringing him possible political dividends in next year's face-off against Charlie Crist.

It's the only cut in the $75 billion state budget he has identified so far. He's proposing reducing taxes and fees by another $100 million but hasn't disclosed where he plans to make those reductions.

It's no coincidence that the 3:15 p.m. announcement at Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore happens to be in Hillsborough, a county that is crucial to next year's gubernatorial contest and adjacent to Crist's home county of Pinellas. Crist was governor in 2009 when, faced with a state budget starved for revenue and aiming to qualify for billions in federal stimulus money, he and lawmakers approved $2.2 billion in higher taxes and fees, including an increase in the auto fees.

But that was then. As the overall economy has recovered, today's state budget is awash in a $1 billion surplus. Crist didn't hesitate to provide context to Scott's planned announcement.

"It's about time!" Crist said in a statement. "When these fees were passed by Rick Scott's colleagues and signed into law, they were never meant to be permanent. I'm surprised it's taken this long for Gov. Scott to realize that it's time to roll these fees back — better late than never."

Crist noted that the higher auto tag fees had been in place under Rick Scott for about 36 months — more than twice as long as when he served as governor from 2007 to 2011.

Yet whether the average voter will notice such nuance is another question.

Senate budget chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the auto registration fee is one that resonates.

"This is the No. 1 issue you hear about from voters," Negron said. "People feel it. It's an annual exercise every year in which people have to pay it, so that makes them very aware of the cost. And in 2009, it made a huge increase in one fell swoop. So it's an excellent way to provide broad-based relief."

In Scott's first year in office, he asked lawmakers to roll back the fee increase. They declined. Negron sponsored a bill to lower auto registration fees this year, but that died, too.

Negron has filed another attempt, SB 156, and it's already vying to become the most popular bill in next year's legislative session, which begins in March. In October, the bill passed the Senate's Transportation Committee with a 9-0 vote. It enjoys enthusiastic bipartisan support and has yet to draw any objections.

Negron's bill doesn't reduce the auto registration fees as much as Scott's proposal. Rather than reducing them by $401 million, Negron's bill would slash them by about $233 million. But he said he appreciates Scott's plan. After receiving an invitation from Scott on Wednesday, Negron said he will attend today's news conference.

Scott first announced his intention to push lawmakers to cut taxes and fees by half a billion in late August before conservative activists in Orlando. But he avoided specifying what cuts he was proposing, opting instead to go on a "listening tour" through the state's largest TV markets to help give him ideas.

With the obvious popularity of Negron's bill, it was hardly a shock that Scott chose to identify cutting the fees as a main priority.

"Obviously, we're very supportive of the governor's call to cut taxes," said House budget chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland. "We're in a year where we can afford it, and we're excited to be on board with him cutting taxes."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18