tampabay.com

Maybe the Knesset can fix our tax mess

By HOWARD TROXLER
Published May 31, 2007


You love Charlie. Admit it. I love him, too. We all love Charlie.

But with that out of the way, what's the governor of Florida doing in Israel?

Gov. Charlie Crist is in the Mideast this week for a five-day trip. Trade mission, you know. Goodwill.

He's meeting with top government and business officials. He's touring the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. He's getting a top-level briefing on military security.

He put a note in the Wailing Wall, asking God to look out for Florida. He's going to Jordan, too, to meet the king.

No offense to these nations, but ...

The guy has been governor for just shy of five months, and he's knocking around the Middle East? Who is he, Charlie of Arabia?

Don't you think he might at least have gotten this property tax thing fixed first? After all, the Legislature is getting ready for a special session.

The governor also is smack in the middle of one of his most important jobs, deciding whether to veto or approve hundreds of bills.

There's still that hurricane insurance thing, too -- not quite fixed, shall we say. Friday is, after all, the official start of the hurricane season.

So the timing does not seem the best, at least not in the "actually governing the state" department.

On the other hand, the timing is quite good for the "raising the governor's profile" department.

A charming, attractive, popular, moderate Republican governor of a big-deal state in the Electoral College - he's not the last guy on the list to be somebody's running mate.

Neither am I the first to point out that there's nothing like a trip to Israel to help your standing among Jewish voters. (Unless he accidentally sets off a diplomatic crisis or something, like proposing a "Save Our Homes" amendment for the West Bank.)

Also, don't forget that Crist just signed a law that allows him to run for federal office without resigning. Heck, he could run for vice president in his spare time in 2008.

I asked on Wednesday how much this trip was costing and who was paying for it. Enterprise Florida, the outfit coordinating the 30-member trip, said its total costs were $100,000 to $110,000, which actually sounds like a pretty good deal.

Some of the politicians on the trip are paying out of their own branch of the government's funds and need to be totaled up separately. Some of the business folks are paying their costs. As for Enterprise Florida, about 80 percent of its money comes from tax dollars and 20 percent from corporations.

The governor's folks also sent me a fact sheet with much interesting information, including the facts that bilateral trade between Florida and Israel was worth $229-million in 2006, and that more than 40 Israeli companies operate in Florida.

So I'm even willing to admit that it's more than a junket. But with everything else on Florida's plate for the foreseeable future, it would be just as well for the governor to govern more and gallivant less.

- - -

There's more on the governor's trip on TroxBlog, along with these current topics: good riddance to the Donald, Elijah Duke's apology, and what readers had to say in this week's live chat. Check it out by clicking on the "Blogs" link at www.tampabay.com, or typing in the address blogs.tampabay.com./troxler.