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Examining District 8 Candidates: Art Graham

August 7, 2009

Framed photo of Council Member Art Graham, District 13As the race to replace the late Sen. King starts to heat up in District 8, we’ve noticed an interesting bit of convenient politicking by Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham.

In the midst of a sobering economic downturn, Republican voters want to hear candidates promise to keep their taxes low. While voters of both parties try to keep their jobs and homes, they want their government to scale back spending the way that they have themselves. It’s understandable.

Art Graham seems to understand this, coming out heavily in the past few weeks against tax increases in Jacksonville. However, as the spotlight turns to his voting record, it’s becoming clear that Graham hasn’t always been a tax fighter.

This leaves a big question in our minds: Can voters trust Art Graham on taxes?Last week, as Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton asked the City Council to approve his proposed 12% property tax increase, Councilman Art Graham spoke defiantly against higher taxes for the city’s residents. Graham had the following comment for the Times-Union:

“I will not vote for a millage increase. We have to get back to our core values. We have to care more about the taxpayers’ financial squeeze and learn to run government on the revenues we have.”

Graham is correct in his assessment and we applaud his efforts to combat higher property taxes in Jacksonville. However, only two years ago, when Mayor Peyton asked the council for $26.5 million in new fees for Jacksonville residents, Councilman Graham was more than happy to oblige with his vote in favor of the new fees.

Floridians simply cannot afford higher taxes and need legislators who embrace the difficult work of trimming the state’s massive budget, not legislators who give into the easy path of raising taxes. We would like to believe in Art Graham’s new found commitment to fight tax increases, but the convenience makes us question his sincerity and resolve.

We must wonder, if Graham wins this election would he go right back to raising taxes?

In the end, Art Graham could be too much of a chance for Florida voters concerned about taxes or politicians saying one thing and doing another. Which could be part of the reason Graham’s Senate campaign has raised a mere $127,000 since he started raising money for the race more than a year ago. We are looking forward to hearing more about Graham’s fiscal conversion in the upcoming weeks.

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