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Scott blasts sugar buyout as hidden tax

UPDATED: A sugar war is emerging in the GOP governor's race as Rick Scott attends a Thursday tea party protest of the U.S. Sugar buyout outside the South Florida Water Management District offices in West Palm Beach.

Scott will call the deal -- which has been dramatically downsized -- a hidden tax and a special interest giveaway. It is Gov. Charlie Crist's baby but Scott's camp is putting the deal in rival Bill McCollum's arms, given his campaign's close ties to U.S. Sugar.

Read Scott's attack on McCollum in his prepared remarks below.

From a Scott campaign press release, his prepared remarks: “Today the South Florida Water Management District is voting on whether or not to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars for the sole benefit of one company.  The South Florida Water Management District cannot afford to purchase this land.  The only way to complete the proposed purchase requires irresponsibly diminishing the water management district’s reserves, raising taxes or going into debt.

"Voting in favor of this sweetheart deal for U.S. Sugar places the interests of one company above those of the 7.5 million people who will end up being taxed to pay for this political favor.  During the course of his campaign, McCollum and his attack groups have directly or indirectly received nearly $1 million from U.S. Sugar.  He has cut a secret deal supporting a secret tax.

“Unfortunately for U.S. Sugar, I can’t be bought.  As Governor, I will stand up to the Tallahassee special interests and fight against the irresponsible tax and spend policies that career politicians continue to support. I stand with taxpayers and hard-working Floridians and implore the board of the South Florida Water Management District to place the interests of its 7.5 million residents above those of U.S. Sugar and the politicians they support.”

Rick signed a pledge to oppose the secret deal and secret tax with U.S. Sugar.  He was joined at the press conference by The Tea Party in Action Executive Director Marianne Moran.
Moran said, “Today, the South Florida Water Management District is once again pushing a bailout of the U.S. Sugar Corporation.  A deal the District's chairman himself admitted will result in higher property taxes.  This is an unprecedented taxpayer-funded bailout at a time when Florida taxpayers can afford it least.  We welcome and applaud Rick Scott for signing the Tea Party in Action pledge to oppose the bailout, and hope all political candidates in Florida will join this conservative movement by opposing this corporate welfare.

“The Tea Party in Action and our Tea Party coalition has been sounding the alarm on this U.S. Sugar Corporation bailout for many months.  It's a sweet-heart deal for political campaign donors and a boondoggle for the taxpayers.  The New York Times has reported the deal is designed to 'rescue the fortunes of U.S. Sugar,' and according to the Miami Herald, it's simply 'a sweetheart bailout for a major Crist campaign donor.'

“It's time to get Florida back on the right track by protecting taxpayers from this kind of waste and abuse.”