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Sanchez hits Iorio's property tax votes

By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 15, 2003

TAMPA -- Mayoral candidate Frank Sanchez sent a letter to voters Friday criticizing frontrunner Pam Iorio for raising property taxes as a county commissioner.

"My opponent has a history of solving budgetary problems by raising property taxes," Sanchez wrote, touting his business experience. "I will not resort to raising property taxes to solve Tampa's problems."

The letter comes the same day that Sanchez told a Times editorial writer that Iorio was just "brainstorming" when she threw out the idea of raising property taxes to pay for stormwater projects in 1990.

Sanchez criticized Iorio during a televised debate Tuesday for proposing a property tax increase to pay for stormwater projects. He said it shows she favors taxes.

But records showed that Iorio simply raised the idea of a property tax during a lengthy commission meeting, where the board talked about how to solve a financial squeeze for unfunded stormwater projects in 1990. Iorio never proposed the tax.

A Times editorial on Friday criticized Sanchez for attacking Iorio, noting that he supports a proposed stormwater tax for city residents. Friday, Sanchez called Times editorial writer John Hill to discuss the editorial and said: "I'll give her that. She was brainstorming. I'll give her that."

Sanchez did not return a call Friday about his comment.

Sanchez political consultant Joe Johnson said Iorio was "brainstorming in the wrong direction" when she brought up the idea.

Sanchez's letter Friday was based on votes Iorio made in 1991 to raise property taxes for residents in unincorporated Hillsborough County, Johnson said. The commission voted that year to raise taxes for the unincorporated county, while lowering a countywide property tax. The decrease compensated for the passage of a new sales tax for indigent health services.

In 1991, Iorio explained her vote by saying that Sheriff Walter Heinrich needed more money for more deputies.

Friday, Iorio said her overall record on the commission showed fiscal restraint.

Iorio acknowledged voting between 1985 and 1992 for property tax increases six times but said she voted to lower property taxes seven times over the same time period. "I don't know Mr. Sanchez. I just met him in the course of his arrival in town to run for mayor," Iorio said. "But I have observed in this campaign (that) he has turned into a desperate, negative campaigner who readily distorts my record."

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