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Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis camps spar over federal ‘Fair Tax’ bill

On three separate occasions, U.S. Rep. and GOP candidate for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis co-sponsored Fair Tax legislation.

The bill, a favorite in some conservative circles (even as National Review-types such as Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru diverge), would overhaul federal taxation as we know it “by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.”

On Tuesday, Florida Grown (a political committee supportive of the gubernatorial campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam) spotlighted in television and radio spots the national sales tax proposal as leading to “skyrocketing costs” for Florida families.

“What would a 23 percent sales tax do to Florida’s economy? If Congressman DeSantis had his way, everything would cost 23 percent more — groceries, gas, home purchases,” the narrator says in the 30-second ad, which appears on cable and broadcast beginning Wednesday.

“Congressman DeSantis sponsored legislation to increase sales taxes by 23 percent, hurting families, destroying jobs, devastating tourism. Washington is full of bad ideas and phony politicians. Ron DeSantis and his huge tax increase fit right in,” the narrator adds.

In making the anti-Fair Tax case, Putnam is seemingly advocating for the current model of taxation on the federal level.

He’s not alone in opposing the proposal: left-leaning PolitiFact, in 2015, said the proposal was regressive, eliminating a graduated income tax in favor of a regressive, consumption-based tax.

The same PolitiFact write-up notes that for the tax to be revenue neutral, the rate may have to be well above 23 percent.

As a candidate in 2012, DeSantis outlined his philosophy regarding the burdens of taxation to the Palm Coast Observer.

“Americans are overtaxed. If you look at somebody who earns a relatively decent income, in Florida at least we don’t have income tax, but like in California you’re making $80,000 in a two-income family, you’re getting hit federally with the 15.4% FICA. Then you’re getting federal income tax and you’re getting state income tax, then you’re paying property taxes, you’re paying gas taxes, paying sales taxes — everything we do is being taxed. I just think we need to draw the line and say OK, we’ve taxed enough, let’s have government live within its means rather than asking us to pay more and more.”

DeSantis was slow to co-sponsor the bill for the third time in 2017 but did after an inquiry from the chairman of the group dedicated to passing the measure.

Campaign manager Brad Herold notes that DeSantis still supports the bill, saying “he’s co-sponsored it three times.”

When asked why Putnam would go on the attack on this point, Herold posited: “Putnam is facing the reality of having to finally get a job outside of politics, and he’ll say just about anything to avoid that. Including attacking Ron for supporting the FairTax.”

Herold, in what has to be considered foreshadowing of the president’s stump speech next week in Tampa, notes that “when President Trump endorsed us, he said Ron is ‘big on cutting taxes.'”

On behalf of the Putnam campaign, spox Meredith Beatrice asserted late Monday evening the candidate has real concerns about the Fair Tax.

“Conservatives have railed against this tax and explained how it would result in higher taxes for the middle class. This policy is particularly bad for Florida considering that retirees, who paid taxes on their wages during their working lives, would find themselves having to also pay higher taxes on everything they used their accumulated savings to buy,” Beatrice said.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at

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