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Crist seeks money for ads
Businesses offer a lukewarm reaction for donations for a property tax blitz.
By ALEX LEARY and STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writers
Published November 29, 2007
TALLAHASSEE - Inside the cozy, wood-paneled confines of the private Governor's Club, Gov. Charlie Crist made a personal pitch for money - big money - to bankroll passage of a plan to cut property taxes.
In one-on-one meetings last week with lobbyists for major business trade groups, Crist sought donations ranging from $500,000 to $1-million to Vote Yes On 1, the political committee running the campaign.
A well-financed advertising campaign is vital to passage of the constitutional amendment on Jan. 29. Polls show support below the required 60 percent, though many voters remain undecided.
But the reaction to Crist's pitch seems lukewarm at a time when the economy is slowing and the business lobby is girding to defeat another ballot measure, the slow-growth Hometown Democracy initiative.
The governor said he received no promises on donations. "I made the ask," he said Wednesday.
"It's always a challenge to raise a lot of money," said Carol Dover, head of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. "But we certainly recognize you have to raise money to make sure the message gets out. We're going to raise what we're able to raise."
David Daniel, lobbyist for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said the group shares Crist's goal of lower property tax bills. "We've given our commitment we will do what it takes to support the initiative."
The overall campaign will range from a minimum of $5-million to as high as $15-million.
"It's going to take a lot of money," said lobbyist Brian Ballard, a major fundraiser for Crist's 2006 campaign.
Most of the money will pay for high-priced, 30-second TV ads throughout January, a time when presidential candidates also likely will be flooding the airwaves with ads.
Businesses were not entirely pleased with the property tax cut deal that passed in an October special session because it is mainly geared toward homestead property owners.
The plan calls for allowing people to carry their Save Our Homes benefits when they move, and doubling the $25,000 homestead exemption (though the new benefit is more like $15,000 because school taxes are not included.) Nonhomestead property owners would get a 10 percent cap on annual assessments.
"It's not as good a deal for the business community as it could be, but it's a step in the right direction," said Barney Bishop, chief executive of Associated Industries of Florida, who has not yet met with the governor.
Bishop said, however, that defeating Hometown Democracy is a big priority. The citizen petition aims to slow growth by requiring voter approval for comprehensive-plan changes.
Times staff writer Aaron Sharockman contributed to this report.
Two dozen Tampa Bay business executives had a chance to bend Gov. Charlie Crist's ear Wednesday at a meeting at Raymond James Financial headquarters in St. Petersburg. Some of what was on their minds: reducing property taxes, improving Florida colleges and universities, and improving access to affordable higher education.