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Gaetz likes Scott’s fee reductions, but defends enacting them

by John Kennedy | December 12th, 2013

Gov. Rick Scott today goes to Tampa to tout his plan to eliminate a 2009 increase in motorist fees that was approved when his Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, sat in the executive office as a Republican.

The $401 million fee reduction is part of Scott’s pledge to cut $500 million in taxes-and-fees next election year. But if Scott is both looking to help Floridians while hurting Crist with the move, he didn’t get much help a few hours earlier from Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Meeting with reporters, Gaetz recalled being in the Senate when the increase was approved as the state economy cratered in the recession.

” It was the right vote, it was a hard vote,” Gaetz acknowledged. “None of us liked it….But it was the least worst alternative at the time.”

The Florida Republican Party has centered its scorched earth campaign against Crist on reminding voters about the lousy economy that consumed the state when he was governor from 2007-11. The message effectively warns that electing Crist would bring a return to the bad old days of skyrocketing job losses, budget cuts and federal bailouts.

Gaetz on Thursday didn’t mention Crist. But as someone who, like the former governor, was struggling to keep state government afloat amid a cascade of bad news, Gaetz wasn’t ready to condemn the decision to hike fees.

“It was certainly meant to be temporary,” Gaetz said of the motorist increases. “And the hope was that it could be rolled back at some point.

“But it was hard at that time to see around the corner as to when things would get better, because every month seemed to be getting worse and worse,” he said.

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