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Andrew Gillum’s team defends tax plan as overdue investment in economy

Blasting Republican claims that Andrew Gillum‘s tax plan is a form of socialism, Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Chris King and other members of the gubernatorial nominee’s team on Thursday defended an increase in corporate taxes as an overdue investment in education and Florida’s economy.

King, Greenbank CEO Ken LaRoe and Orlando entrepreneur Harold Mills charged that the Republicans’ efforts to continuously cut taxes has led to a routine lack of investment in Florida’s schools and other services that have left the state uncompetitive for top companies and high-paying, high-skill jobs.

The trio responded to criticism, showing up in television commercials, of Gillum’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate to generate an additional $1 billion in tax revenue, which he said he wants to invest in Florida’s public schools. Gillum’s plan calls for an increase in the tax rate on large corporations to 7.75 percent. He contends that few of them are paying taxes now, and those that do pay only pay 5.5 percent.

On Thursday, the Democrats rankled at Republican charges, led by Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, that Gillum is pushing a form of socialism.

“Our economic plan, it was charged by some Republicans and DeSantis, is just all about socialism. That could not be further from the truth. That is really an offensive attack for people who have come from countries who have faced the pain and challenges and terrorism of terrorist regimes. That’s not what we’re doing,” King said.

“I’m an entrepreneur. I believe I’m the only one on the ticket. … I believe in business. Mayor Gillum believes in business.  He is in the fastest growing economy in the state of Florida for business [in Tallahassee]. We have two guys who believe in business but who want to make sure that everybody has got a fair shake at pursuing their dreams. And so the type of growth we want to see is real investment in public education.”

LaRoe said the issue for him is that Florida needs to make investments in the economy. He charged that Amazon passed on a chance to open its second headquarters in Florida, and other major businesses are passing over the state, “because our school systems are so bad.”

LaRoe said that as a bank CEO he would welcome the corporate tax increase at his business, which he said would amount to a tiny hit on his bank’s profits.

“To pay a tiny little bit in extra taxes to make sure our school system is at least at parity with the rest of the country, to me, is a very, very smart sacrifice to make,” he said.

Mills argued that the tax plan would affect only Florida’s biggest businesses and that 98 percent of Florida’s other businesses, including virtually all small businesses, would not see any tax increase. Like LaRoe and King, he argued that Florida needs to invest the money to be more competitive for high-paying jobs.

“The irony of it is the number one priority for the Florida Chamber of Commerce … is how do we build the workforce of the future? Andrew Gillum and Chris King agree with that. They agree with the Chamber, they agree with business,” Mills said. “They are the only ones, Andrew Gillum and Chris King are the only ones that have an actual plan that enables us to make massive investments in education.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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