There was supposed to be a debate yesterday, April 9, at the Pinellas Republican Executive Committee monthly meeting, between Dr. David McKalip Chairman of Cut Taxes Now, a St. Petersburg based citizens' group that has organized to demand lower property taxes and cuts in spending by local government, and Mayor Jimmy Johnson of Seminole, one of many local leaders that have claimed that any rollbacks in property taxes will result in dramatic cuts to local services.
Unfortunately, Mayor Johnson did not appear. Dr. McKalip did, carrying a dirty, but clearly visible and otherwise intact stop sign that, having been replaced along with many others in his neighborhood in St. Petersburg on a Saturday, symbolized the unnecessary, runaway spending of local government.
In his remarks, Mr. McKalip pointed out that local governments have doubled their spending since the beginning of the decade, and that "local tax collections have outpaced inflation and population growth by 4 to 5 times," despite the fact that most local City Councils have majority Republican control. "It is hard to find a local official to recognize that there is even a problem with the budgets we have. Yet we have a housing market that has stagnated with record numbers of homes on the market, we have small businesses passing on tax costs to consumers, renters having trouble finding affordable housing, young families not able to buy their first home, older homeowners trapped in their homes because they can't buy a smaller home without paying higher taxes."
He added that, as a Goldwater Republican, local officials' lack of concern with the continual growth of revenues and expenses seemed unfathomable and encouraged the Republican Executive committee to let local officials know that efforts by those officials, "forming ranks through the Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties to wage war on the tax relief and reform efforts coming from Tallahassee" did not bode well for the future of the Republican party in Florida, especially since rising taxes and insurance rates are hitting small businesses and property owners, often traditional Republican voters, especially hard due to the inequities in the system.
His remarks were well received by the many executive members present and the few local officials at the meeting, who were heard to say "he's right."
McKalip's group, Cut Taxes Now is sponsoring a bus for those concerned about property taxes to go to Tallahassee on Tuesday, April 17, leaving from the Pinellas Parkside Parking lot at 6:30AM. The trip is free and lunch will be provided. For further information go to www.CutTaxesNow.com.