Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 16th 2017

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Gaetz Unchained

By Brooke Weber

Local community members had the opportunity to have Congressman Matt Gaetz “unchained” on Nov. 20 at a town hall meeting that was broadcast live on News Talk 1370 WCOA’s “Pensacola Speaks.”

Residents came to address concerns they have, while others were there to observe and some were there to support their congressman.

Bernadette Pittman, a member of the Northwest Florida Bikers for Trump, said she was there to support Representative Gaetz 100-percent.

Diane Krumel came to see if the Pensacola Beach tax bill was dead and if so, will it be re-introduced.

The event jumped into a Q&A fashion regarding tax reform quickly.

Arlene Costello had two concerns with the tax reform. “First, the tax deduction for teachers that’s only $250 has been eliminated,” Costello said.” Second, taxpayers from states like California will not be able to deduct their state income tax.”

Costello wanted Congress to revive the tax deduction for teachers, because they spend hundreds of dollars for their classrooms.

“It is disgusting that the House and the Senate would vote for that,” she said.

Gaetz said the low tax brackets would offset the loss in deductions. He plans to continue to fight to end a system where Florida taxpayers are subsidizing high tax states like New York, California, New Jersey and Illinois.

He said the state of Florida has the lowest per capita state taxes in America, and that he’s incredibly proud of that.

Lisa Rawson wanted to know the congressman’s thoughts about graduate education and tax reform. “They’re talking about taxing people in fellowship programs, getting Ph.D.’s, on tuition waivers, which is going to make it impossible for people to pursue higher education,” Rawson said. “It seems like it’s a war on our smartest and brightest kids in these programs.”

“Folks will be able to have a simple system, far more easy to understand, doubling the standard deduction that will lower rates for people who have the salary range of those entry-level jobs,” Gaetz responded. “That’s why I think this tax code works for folks who are in graduate school.”

Rawson said this tax plan is going to strip universities of graduate programs that they have since people aren’t going to be able to afford to go into doctorate programs anymore. “When they get taxed on stuff there goes our research,” she said. “There goes all our best and brightest programs.”

Inweekly publisher and moderator Rick Outzen asked Rep. Gaetz his position on pre-existing conditions and transitioned the topic to healthcare.

“I think if we had a Medicaid program that actually worked for people who are truly impoverished and truly ill it would go a long way because today the Medicaid system is totally broken,” Gaetz said.

Krumel accused Rep. Gaetz of having no idea about the cost of medical care.

“I just had a procedure in July, $178,000. How dare you tell people to have health savings? How can people save for that? That was one night in the hospital and that didn’t even include the doctors’ bill,” she said. “I can’t believe that you have no heart or empathy for the people who you represent.

“You referenced this $178,000 bill you got; someone has to pay that unless the cost of healthcare goes down,” Gaetz replied. “I hear what you’re saying; you would like someone else to pay for the cost of that healthcare that you had.”

Rep. Gaetz said the reforms that he’s advocated for and the reforms that he’s detailed would lower the cost of care.

“If people could buy insurance across state lines, save their own money to deal with healthcare and if we had a deregulated market where insurance companies wouldn’t be able to violate anti-trust laws, then healthcare would be far better than we get now,” he said.

Costello gave a suggestion regarding healthcare.

“I thought this is a Democratic process,” she said. “My suggestion is, it is not just your plan that would work, but if you get together a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, Independents and whoever, because you are the representative of all the people of district one, and let us put together our plan that would work for us.”

The congressman said he is confident that the concept of bipartisan healthcare reform can and does work.

“I’ve seen it work in the State of Florida,” he said. “It seems to me, to be very counterintuitive to focus exclusively on health insurance rather than on the cost of health care.”

Rep. Gaetz said that he wished we lived in a world where every time we got sick, under any conditions, no matter how well we did or didn’t take care of ourselves, someone else would pay the bill.

“I’ve proposed a series of free-market reforms that would lower the cost of healthcare and enhance options for consumers,” he said.

At the end of the formal Q&A, Krumel got her chance to ask the congressman about the beach tax bill.

She said, “In the House Bill 1452 that you introduced in Congress, the Escambia County Land Convenience Act, better known as the ‘Beach Theft Bill.’ If it’s not dead, why not? If it’s dead, are you going to introduce the same bill again? Are you going to bring it up again?”

Rep. Gaetz said that Krumel incorrectly characterized the bill and that he wanted the opportunity to explain why.

“There is nothing in this bill, that would take one speck of existing sand and deprive a single person’s access to it who is currently using it now,” he said. “The only thing that we change is the tax structure that yields people on the beach a system where they are the only people in America paying property taxes on something that they cannot own.

Gaetz read the parts of the bill aloud. He said, “In the legislation that we’ve offered, there is no change to those existing developing restrictions. A hundred percent of the laws that govern what can and cannot be developed on Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach today are local laws.”

However, Krumel said after the event that the congressman lied about the beach bill.  She wants to see the Escambia County commissioners include a binding referendum on the county-wide 2018 ballot. The referendum would place the decision of changing the public lands status before the people of the Santa Rosa Island and Escambia County.

After the event, Vickie Neopolitan from Indivisible of NWFL said she  did appreciate Rep. Gaetz holding live events, but that it continues to be “glaringly obvious, and sorely disappointing” that he is unwilling to have a genuine dialogue in which alternative policies are explored, weighed and perhaps even adopted.

Pensacola resident Debra Miller said she admires the fact that Rep. Gaetz is willing to come and do these events as well.

“One of the things that struck me when one of the audience members asked why he hadn’t introduced a bill, he said he had only been there 11 months, but in those 11 months he’s also introduced a bill to abolish the EPA, and several other frivolous bills,” Miller said. “So he has time to introduce bills.”

Miller believes the freshman lawmaker was not interested in finding common ground, but she was optimistic.

She said, “I hope as he matures as a person and as a congressman he will learn to work with his constituents.”