Brown-Waite supports conservative tax plan

Her primary challenger says she changed her mind on the "fair tax" because he backs it.

By JOHN FRANK, Times Staff Writer
Published November 26, 2007

For years, U.S. Rep Ginny Brown-Waite refused to endorse the so-called "fair tax," a controversial proposal backed by conservatives who want to eliminate the federal income tax and replace it with a tax on consumption.

The Brooksville Republican rode the fence, saying she wanted to research the issue because of concerns about its unknown effects on the current tax system.

But in September, Brown-Waite quietly signed on to the plan, even though she acknowledges she doesn't have her answers yet.

The change of heart has her Republican primary challenger in next year's election crying foul.

Jim King, a Land O'Lakes Republican running a long-shot campaign to unseat the three-term incumbent, said he supported the idea long before she did.

"Ginny Brown-Waite finally signed on to the fair tax the other day only because I'm publicly supporting it," King said.

Brown-Waite said King's claim was nonsense.

"I have been doing my research," she said in a recent interview. "I would not say I've been resisting it."

Brown-Waite added her name as a co-sponsor to H.R. 25, dubbed the "FairTax Act of 2007," on Sept. 24, according to Americans for Fair Taxation, the group advocating the major policy change.

In a statement on the group's Web site, Brown-Waite No. 70 in a list of 72 co-sponsors joined the effort with a general endorsement of lower taxes.

"Americans pay too much in taxes," she said in the statement. "The best way to spur the economy is to allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned wages. I am committed to fostering a flexible and competitive economy, and making our country a good place to do business. I assure you that I will work my hardest to ensure that."

In an interview, Brown-Waite said she decided to support the bill to force Congress to hold hearings exploring the proposal. She feared the tax system would get only worse as "Democrats talk about more ways to tax Americans," she said.

The fair-tax bill would abolish federal income taxes, as well as other federal taxes, in favor of a national sales tax model. To remain revenue neutral, the legislation Brown-Waite supports would implement a new goods and services tax at 30 percent.

Critics contend the measure is anything but fair because it would collect more money from those in the middle-class income brackets and reduce the tax burden on people who make more than $200,000 a year.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.