I read with some interest a few weeks ago that former [originally left off the former part — my bad] Polk County Commissioner Jack Myers plans to run for Paula Dockery’s Florida senate seat. I read with particular interest his brief rationale for running:
“Everyone needs jobs. Everyone needs less government,” Myers, a Republican, said Saturday.
Ah yes, less government. If there’s anything Jack is about, it’s less government. Riiight. For starters, after running hard in 2000 against the relatively modest gas tax approved by the 1999 County Commission, he voted in 2005 for the largest tax increase in Polk County history. You remember that, right? A 1-mill increase on all property owners to pay for road improvements. A .5 mill new taxing district for the unincorporated area to pay for parks. A 0.25-mill tax in the unincorporated area to pay for libraries. All in all, it made for a 22 percent tax increase. And that didn’t even take into consideration the big impact fee increases.
Here’s what Jack had to say a couple of weeks after voting to approve that massive tax package.
“A lot of the taxes we’ve done, a lot of these businesses are paying these taxes, and it’s a lot for them to be absorbing at once,” said Commission Chairman Jack Myers. “I know a couple deals that (residents) are scrambling around trying to save right now.”
Now, I more or less support that investment in public benefit, although I’m not sure we needed that much more more taxation for roads. Certainly, until that package went through, Polk was a comparatively low tax, high growth county. But of course, I don’t pretend to oppose taxes and spending for the sake of getting elected and then turn around and tax and spend.
And for Jack, the love of government spending didn’t just stop with the biggest tax increase in Polk history. He was a relentless supporter of the CSX/Sunrail deal, which would hand over anywhere from $490 million to $700 million of your dollars directly to CSX and commit lots and lots of additional money indirectly. He even voted against imposing some reasonable conditions on development at the CSX hub in Winter Haven. Again, charitably, one could make the argument that spending all that tax money on CSX has some public benefit. But one would strain credibility to say one loves the CSX deal and yet wants less government in one’s life.
And, of course, Jack has been perhaps the chief proponent of kicking in local taxpayer dollars to USF Poly, which itself is an expensive act of the same government he claims everyone wants less of. Jack was the driving force behind the $5 million of your local tax money the County Commission turned over to USF Poly in 2008. No word if he supports the $28 million in federal stimulus money that’s building a vital road for the campus years ahead of schedule. But remember that road when you hear him demagogue the stimulus or government spending generally in the months to come.
To be clear, again, I’m thrilled with all the investment in USF Poly. I support it, from the campus to the incubators. All of this makes me a guy who thinks government – in the form of investment in the public good – has an important role to play in our civic life. And yet I’d have to work awfully hard to ever spend as much of your money on government projects as Jack Myers has in the last decade.