All four candidates in House District 52 declared their opposition to a state income tax during a campaign forum Tuesday.
That led one audience member, University of South Florida political science professor Darryl Paulson, to ask some follow-up questions:
"If you're going to favor an increase in revenue, what specific revenues do you favor for the state of Florida?"
And, "Can you give me a specific example of how you would make government operate more efficiently?"
These questions proved a little more difficult than the one on the income tax, perhaps partly because the candidates had just 45 seconds to respond. Here were the answers:
Margo Fischer, a Democrat, said one way to increase revenues was to strictly enforce collections of existing taxes. Another way would be to broaden the state's economic base, by improving schools, increasing tourism and promoting world trade. No answer on government efficiency.
The other Democratic candidate, Martha Maddux, said, "At this time in our state, we need to be careful about how we are going to go about finding a new revenue source for the state because we don't have enough revenue to go around. So I hope we do find a solution." No answer on efficiency.
Cary Burns, a Republican candidate, said there should be more local control over state agencies so that they wouldn't be tempted to spend extra money on capital projects. His answer for revenue: "Tourism."
The other Republican candidate, Frank Farkas, said the state needs to carefully evaluate which state programs work and which don't. To increase revenue, the state needs to attract businesses, he said.
Those weren't the only tough questions. One member of the audience mentioned Florida's high rate of infections from HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, and asked candidates what they would do to improve the public health system. The question seemed to befuddle Maddux.
"The virus that causes AIDS," Maddux said. "I don't know a whole lot about that. I hope that we can have more research. Is that the kind of thing that you're wanting from this question?"
The other candidates said education needs to be stressed in the fight against the disease.
The candidates hope to succeed House Speaker Peter Wallace, who is not seeking re-election. House District 52 includes portions of northern St. Petersburg and Kenneth City.