Obama favors extending the tax cuts only for households earning less than $250,000, about 98% of all taxpayers. Rubio argued that anything short of extending them for all Americans, poor and wealthy alike, would amount to a tax increase at a particularly vulnerable time. "There's a difference between compromise & cutting a deal," Rubio said. "Compromise is a good thing. Cutting deals in Washington, there's too much of that."
Meek defended Obama's economic strategy. Crist straddled the positions of his rivals, supporting a compromise on the tax cuts
Rubio insisted all the tax cuts should be extended, saying no one in America should pay higher taxes at a time of high unemployment and sluggish economic growth. "It's a bad time to raise taxes on anybody," Rubio said. "The only way to improve the economy is by growing the economy and fiscal constraint, and you have to do both."
Crist said that position showed Rubio's inability to break from rigid ideology. While Crist advocated a compromise, Meek backed the Obama position.
"You think government creates jobs," Rubio said to Meek, cutting him off.
"No, I don't," Meek said.
"You do," Rubio said.
"I think tax cuts for small businesses create jobs and incentives for local communities to move forward," Meek said.
Crist added, "What you just witnessed is the problem and the reason I'm running as an independent. These two guys are going at each other because one's the Republican right, one's the Democratic left. What's true is there are good things that both parties can present to the future of our country."
A St. Petersburg Times investigation later found that Rubio had also double-billed the state and the GOP credit card for eight flights. After the report, he admitted the error and repaid the party $3,000.
Then, in 2007, Rubio finally found a cash buyer for his first house, who paid $380,000 up front--a $105K windfall over Rubio's 2003 purchase price. The buyer was the mother of the lobbyist who spent months lobbying Rubio for his critical support of an insuranc law. Rubio voted for the bill a few months afterwards.
Did the home sale buy his vote? Rubio says no. "My understanding was that [the buyer] had some life insurance proceeds that she was using to buy it, and she was willing to close on it quickly."
His ambition, though, again proved greater than his ability to find consensus. Both his tax plan and spending cap made it out of committee, but as the House was forced to make the deepest budget cuts in state history, the Senate refused to even take up the plans.
In the end, Rubio's two terms as speaker [ending in 2008] had yielded no flashy tax overhaul, but the House did pass 57 of his "100 Innovative Ideas."
Asked what he would do, Crist said that raising the age "really flies in the face of an awful lot of my fellow Floridians" and said he would root out waste and fraud instead.
Rubio pointed out the problems facing the Social Security program and stated that we're going to have to look at the tough choices, which include raising the retirement age for younger Americans, possibly reducing Cost of Living Adjustments, and other changes to benefits. If you don't want to raise taxes--which both Crist and Rubio say they oppose--then these are pretty much your only options.
Crist replied that he opposes either a retirement age increase or changes to annual COLAs. Instead, he would focus on attacking "waste and fraud" in the system.
Rubio was willing to be upfront about the hard choices awaiting us on Social Security. This may be due to the dawning on Americans that the clock is truly ticking in terms of getting our fiscal house in order. Rubio brought up the problem of Greece's debt crisis & related it to what America may be looking at in the future.
RUBIO: Well, if it's bad for America, it can't possibly be good for your state. Since February, 211,000 Floridians have lost their jobs. Do you want a candidate that would have voted against the stimulus and supported something that would have cost less money and created more jobs. If that's the candidate you want, that would be me. Or do you want the someone who would have voted with the Democrats for the stimulus package? And that candidate would be Gov. Crist.
CRIST: If we had taken the speaker's approach, we would have had 87,000 more people on top of that 12% that would be unemployed in Florida today.
Q: If you had been a senator in 2009 you would have voted for the stimulus?
CRIST: Yeah, it was the right thing to do at the time.
RUBIO: Well, partisan gridlock is not something I'm in favor of. But the problem is it depends on what you're standing for. I'd be more than happy to work across the aisle to do things like lower the capital gains tax, lower the corporate tax, flatten the tax rate, lower all of these other taxes that make America increasingly an unfriendly place to do business. And if the Obama administration tomorrow announces that that's their agenda, or the leadership in Congress does, I'll be thrilled to work with them. But what they're attempting to do is to fundamentally redefine the role of government in America, and we can't cooperate with that, because once we cross a certain point, we can't turn back.
RUBIO: Well, it's not about moving away. It's about providing an alternative to it.
Q: If you go to Washington, would you work to repeal healthcare reform?
Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010
RUBIO: The only place those bills ever got a hearing was on the floor of the House, and they didn't advance because the Senate didn't want to advance them. Gov. Crist didn't have an interest in them as well.
CRIST: I had an interest in them. How can you say what my interest was?
RUBIO: Well, I never saw you speak out.
Q: But you didn't bring several of these bills to the floor?
RUBIO: Well, they never go out of their committees.
Q: Some critics say you could have done more.
RUBIO: Well, we gave it a hearing. The support wasn't there among the membership at the time, & they were focused at that time on some very serious challenges in a 60-day session.
Having a legal immigration system that works begins with border security. That's not enough; about 1/3 of the folks in this country illegally enter legally & they overstay visas. So we've got to deal with that issue as well.
We've got to deal with the employment aspect of it, because the vast majority of people who enter thi country illegally do so in search of jobs, and jobs are being provided to them. So we need some level of verification system so that employers are required to verify the employment status of their folks.
As far as amnesty, that's where the governor and I disagree. He would have voted for the McCain plan. I think that plan is wrong. If you grant amnesty, in any form, whether it's back of the line or so forth, you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works.
RUBIO: Those allegations have been proven false. Here are the facts. This is not taxpayer money. It was raised for the purposes of political advancement, for advancing a political agenda. And that's what the money was spent on. Now, there were some occasions where we had some personal expenses which I identified and I made payments on out of my own pocket at the time those expenses were made. All this money's been accounted for.
RUBIO: Sure. The Tea Party movement has been mischaracterized in the press as some sort of an organization. Tea Parties are where people go and what people do. It's not what they are and it is not an organization. If you go to a tea party, what you're going to find there are people that largely have never been involved in American politics.
Q: So why don't you go? We get this from [many] Tea Party groups.
RUBIO: I have gone to 15, 20 of these around the state. I've met with multiple groups. If there's a formal vetting process, I've not been made aware of it. But I can tell you that I'm proud of my association with the Tea Party folks and the fact that we have attended multiple events
CRIST: Actually, Reagan was a Democrat before he was a Republican. So if you want to talk about Reagan, let's talk about him.
RUBIO: Ronald Reagan had a great question he asked during his campaign: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? And for Floridians, there's a powerful answer to that. We have the highest unemployment record in our history We have record foreclosures. And we have a governor that supported Barack Obama's stimulus package. That doesn't sound like a Reagan record to me, and I think it makes the answer to that question very easy. Floridians are not better off than they were four years ago since you became governor. And now your promise is to take those ideas to Washington. I'm running for Senate because if I get there, I will stand up to this. We can't trust you, Governor, to stand up to Barack Obama.
RUBIO: The freeze is not enough. We can freeze the non-military discretionary spending and it's a good step forward. But ultimately, tackling the issue of the federal debt is going to require significant entitlement reforms. That means programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid have to be reformed if we hope to save them so that they exist for my generation. That means we are going to call upon people my age--I turn 39 in May--and people that are far from retirement to make difficult but important and necessary choices to ensure that the runaway growth in entitlement programs and federal spending does not diminish our future or bankrupt America.
RUBIO: Well, first of all, I think a great starting point for this conversation is the Ryan roadmap.
Q: This is Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
RUBIO: Correct. I think it's a great starting point. He does include individual accounts as part of his plan.
Q: I'm asking you about your plan.
RUBIO: On the individual accounts come and gone, that debate happened a few years ago and every year that goes by, it becomes more difficult to accomplish that. But certainly, I think if you're 55 years of age or older, this is off the table.
Q: So, would you raise the retirement age?
RUBIO: I think that has to be on the table. That's got to be part of the solution, the retirement age gradually increases for people of my generation.
RUBIO: I think all of that has to be on the table, including the way we index increases in cost of living. All of these issues have to be on the table [including raising the retirement age]. They are options that I would be open to.
Q: Gov. Crist, we looked all over your campaign Web site. Frankly, we couldn't find a word about Social Security reform.
CRIST: Well, I think it's important that we understand Social Security must be saved. It must be protected. The idea of having a higher age for people to be able to be eligible for Social Security really flies in the face of an awful lot of my fellow Floridians and it's something that I would not advocate. I think we need t take the fraud out of Social Security, the waste, in Medicare as well.
Q: You're saying that even for people under the age of 55 you would not raise the retirement age or you wouldn't change the cost-of-living adjustment?
CRIST: No, I would not.
RUBIO: It would have eliminated property taxes for all sorts of people. You said you ran as a Jeb Bush Republican. Jeb Bush supported that plan. And later on, you supported a similar plan.
Q: It would have eliminated the property tax and substituted a state tax?
RUBIO: With a revenue-neutral sales tax.
CRIST: Not revenue-neutral. It would have increased sales tax.
RUBIO: 30% of our sales tax are paid for by non-Floridians. It would have been a massive tax cut for Floridians on their property taxes.
CRIST: To the contrary. It would have been a massive tax increase.
CRIST: No, I don't think I did, [because the increases were all in fees].
RUBIO: I took a pledge when I became a state representative to never raise taxes. I never broke that pledge. And that's why the leader of that organization and basically every fiscally conservative group in the country has supported my candidacy.
CRIST: Actually, the speaker has broken that pledge.
RUBIO: The governor has broken his pledge. He broke it last year.
CRIST: No, that's not true. He voted for tax increases when he was on the West Miami City Commission, and he said on his Web site that he has never voted for a new tax. That's just not the truth, and he ought to be truthful to the people of Florida before he asks for their vote.
RUBIO: That's also inaccurate.
CRIST: [The press] just reported it yesterday.
"We are a nation at war. The governor believes the current policy has worked, and there is no need to make changes," a Crist campaign spokeswoman said.
"Marco Rubio supports the current policy and doesn't see any evidence it needs to be changed," a campaign spokesman said.
Rubio's political resume essentially began right after he graduated from the University of Miami Law School. He served as a city commissioner in West Miami before winning his first term in the Florida House of Representatives in 2000. He was sworn in as speaker in 2006, the youngest person and the first Hispanic to hold that position. The centerpiece of his speech is a sweeping homage to conservative principle. "We are not debating stimulus bills or tax codes," he said. "We are debating the essence of what government should be and what role it should play."
The above quotations are from 2010 Florida Senate debates.
Click here for other excerpts from 2010 Florida Senate debates.
Click here for other excerpts by Marco Rubio.
Click here for a profile of Marco Rubio.
Marco Rubio on other issues:
Please consider a donation to OnTheIssues.org!
Click for details -- or send donations to:
1770 Mass Ave. #630, Cambridge MA 02140
(We rely on your support!)