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Politics

Tax protester puts Kriseman in crosshairs

Cut Taxes Now, a political action group, will spotlight the voting records of elected officials.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published October 4, 2006


A neurosurgeon who warned St. Petersburg City Council members last month they would regret not lowering city tax rates further is now working to kick some of them out of office.

Dr. David McKalip has created Cut Taxes Now, a political action group born of the tax revolt. He says it's designed to educate Pinellas County residents on the voting histories of its elected leaders.

The first target: Rick Kriseman, a two-term council member now campaigning for the state House.

A Democrat running in District 53, Kriseman was one of five council members who voted last month to support Mayor Rick Baker's proposed budget, which came with a 5 percent reduction to the tax rate.

But McKalip said the council should have lowered the rate even more - to the point that the city's tax revenue would be flat.

In e-mails to supporters, McKalip claims that Kriseman has "continuously voted to increase taxes to the current unfair levels," and that Kriseman was a tie-breaking vote on the city's budget in September. McKalip said he plans to send campaign mailings to voters detailing Kriseman's record on taxes.

On Tuesday, Kriseman called the attacks disingenuous and misleading. Kriseman is running against 23-year-old former University of South Florida St. Petersburg student government president Thomas Piccolo in District 53, which covers north central St. Petersburg.

"People should have to answer questions about their record," said Kriseman, 43. "But the information out there should also be accurate."

Kriseman said he has never voted to increase the city's tax rate. But even with a static or reduced rate, the city has received more tax dollars each year during his time on the City Council because of new development and a spike in property values.

Kriseman also said he was the first to vote on Baker's budget, so there was no tie to break.

McKalip is planning a tax revolt rally Oct. 11 at St. Petersburg City Hall, and said his group will eventually take up the voting records of other elected officials across Pinellas County.

An Electioneering Communications Organization, or a "527 group," Cut Taxes Now cannot say "vote for" or "vote against" a candidate in its mailings, but it can raise an unlimited amounts of money to be used to exalt or excoriate them.

So far, McKalip said, supporters have donated or pledged $3,500.

Piccolo said he has heard from McKalip just once, immediately after St. Petersburg's budget hearing, and both men say they do not know each other. McKalip is not among Piccolo's campaign contributors, according to finance reports.

Piccolo, however, agrees with McKalip's message about Kriseman.

"If people have to live within their means, governments should have to live within their means," Piccolo said. "People's household checks aren't increasing 12 percent a year, but for some reason governments' revenues are."

In approving the city's $569-million budget, with the 5 percent reduction in tax rates, Kriseman said residents had asked him for more city funding for social programs, Albert Whitted Airport, playgrounds and more. He had to weigh those requests as much as McKalip's request for a tax cut. He said the city reached a fair compromise.

Aaron Sharockman can be reached at (727) 892-2273 or asharockman@sptimes.com

On tax issues

* Rick Kriseman said he would consider making the Save Our Homes tax cap portable; Piccolo said he also supports the idea.

* Thomas Piccolo would double the homestead exemption to $50,000, while Kriseman said he prefers finding solutions for small businesses, renters and owners of second homes.

On the Web

Rick Kriseman: www.kriseman.com

Thomas Piccolo: www.thomaspiccolo.com

Cut Taxes Now: www.cuttaxesnow.com

[Last modified October 4, 2006, 07:16:16]


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