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Amid criticism of tax plan, Chris King talks small business with Colorado Governor in St. Petersburg

In recent days, the Gillum campaign has come under attack by conservatives and business groups for its plan to raise the corporate tax rate from 5.5 to 7.75 percent.
Chris King, left, the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and John Hickenlooper, right, the Democratic governor of Colorado. Credit: Kirby Wilson, Tampa Bay Times
Chris King, left, the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and John Hickenlooper, right, the Democratic governor of Colorado. Credit: Kirby Wilson, Tampa Bay Times
Published Sep. 21, 2018

John Hickenlooper found himself right at home at St. Petersburg's Flying Boat Brewery.

The Democratic governor of Colorado was at establishment to participate in an informal discussion about how to grow small businesses with the Democratic nominee for Florida lieutenant governor, Chris King. But when Flying Boat employees gave the politicians a tour the facility, Hickenlooper couldn't help but weigh in.

"If I could just interrupt, because I've given this tour at least a thousand time," Hickenlooper said before listing the ingredients of beer and likening their interaction during the brewing process to human copulation. "I would always say…it's essentially like you're throwing a giant orgy. And like any orgy, you want to make sure the only people there are the ones you invited."

The line got a laugh, but Hickenlooper knows his beer. Before he got into politics, he was a brewer himself, co-founding Denver's Wynkoop Brewing Company. So it only made sense that the governor, who's said to have presidential ambitions — why else would he be in Florida? — stop at a brewery during his swing through the state.

Like Hickenlooper, King also knows what it's like to start a business. He runs an investment group that redevelops affordable housing facilities in the south. At the event Friday, the two entrepreneurs-turned politicians chatted with the staff at Flying Boat, offering tips and laying out the kind of business environment they hope to create in their states.

For example, King outlined how he hopes his running mate, Democrat Andrew Gillum, will work to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.

"That's one of the things that we think is important, is growing an economy where everyone thinks they can participate," King said.

Gillum and King often talk about how the Florida economy offers too many low-paying jobs. Part of their plan to reshape the economy around more stable work involves taxing corporations more heavily to fund a reinvestment in public schools.

In recent days, the Gillum campaign has come under attack by conservatives and business groups for that plan, which would raise the corporate tax rate from 5.5 to 7.75 percent. On Friday, hours before King's event with Hickenlooper, the Republican Governors Association put out a press release saying the proposal "jeopardize(s)" Florida's "way of life." Gillum's opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis, also frequently decries the proposal.

The plan has also drawn the criticism of major business groups. Edie Ousley, the Florida Chamber of Commerce's vice president of public affairs said in an emailed statement that high taxes like the one proposed by Gillum are driving companies from other states.

"We need to keep Florida's momentum going, not fall for gimmicks that haven't worked in California, New York or Illinois," Ousley said.

But even if the corporate tax increase scares some business owners, the people who run Flying Boat Brewery say they're unfazed. After the tour wound down Friday, Josh Perian, the bar's operations manager, said he is willing to pay more if it means creating an environment that lifts others.

"I like the idea of businesses pulling their weight in the community, reinvesting in the community," Perian said. "It's about contributing not just to yourself but to future generations."

Read more: PolitiFact weighs in on Gillum's corporate tax increase plan.

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