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Candor? Principles? Just who IS this guy?

Senate President John McKay, a Republican, is the darling of all the Democrats this week.

At midweek McKay announced that the Senate will not support the tax cuts that Gov. Jeb Bush has proposed or the ones being pushed by the House of Representatives.

Even Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, had good things to say about McKay. It may be the first time she ever praised a Republican.

Bush says McKay called him the night before he made the announcement to give him a heads up. And the governor says he's still hopeful McKay can be persuaded to change his mind.

House Speaker Tom Feeney and his GOP colleagues in the House are running full speed ahead with bills that would lower taxes, oblivious to the squeals of pain over the budget cuts that Democrats say go hand in hand with the tax cuts.

Is McKay's announcement a negotiating position? Is there anything he wants so badly he'd trade it for a tax cut?

"I don't think if you are actually in negotiations, you'd announce that ahead of time," McKay said Friday as he fielded questions from a room filled with reporters.

Did he make his tax statements to provide "cover" for Republicans who were being battered by criticism over their willingness to cut taxes at a time when they may not be able to meet all the state's needs?

"I don't make statements for cover," McKay says calmly.

Who will win the fight between nursing homes and trial lawyers?

"I'm convinced that neither the nursing homes' position with regard to litigation, nor the trial attorneys' position are right," he says.

Legislators need to address high attorney's fees, but they also need to be certain that there is enough incentive for attorneys to take cases against a nursing home when there is abuse, he adds.

McKay is a master at fielding the questions. And when he doesn't know the answer, he simply admits he does not know, a rare act in politics.

Should we read anything into the fact that he assigned high-speed rail bills to six different committees?

In the Legislature, a Senate president or House speaker can derail a bill by assigning it to a lot of committees. Most bills are assigned to a couple of committees.

"I wouldn't do that," McKay said with a broad grin as a reporter pushed him to say what he thinks about the high-speed rail bills.

He says he has great respect for high-speed rail supporters, but voters need to take another look at it if state money is going to be spent.

McKay puts housing for the homeless, help for the developmentally disabled and helping the victims of self-inflicted crimes, such as drug abuse, at the top of his agenda.

But his real passion is tax reform _ not the kind of tax reform that would increase income to the state, but the kind that is simple and makes the state less dependent on a sales tax.

He knows everyone is afraid of it, but McKay plans to continue pushing for it, even after he leaves office.

No Senate president in recent times has weathered tough media coverage as gracefully as McKay.

"I don't believe the good stuff y'all write about me," McKay explains. "And I don't believe the bad stuff y'all write about me, I just do what I think is right."

McKay is in an interesting position. He has no future political plans, no need to convince editorial boards that he is a good guy.

In many ways, it is an enviable place that leaves him free to follow any path.

So far, he is moving deliberately and with much civility. He doesn't expose his own hand very often, preferring to let his members work on the issues first.

Could we have a statesman on our hands?