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Miami Dade College president slams local lawmakers over sales-tax bill

Branding them ‘bullies’’ and “idealogues,” Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón blasted a handful of powerful local lawmakers on Tuesday, charging that they are sabotaging his school’s best hope for a desperately needed infusion of money.

Padrón’s unusually blunt remarks, made to the Miami Herald editorial board, came as a bill circulates in Tallahassee that would allow a Miami-Dade voter referendum on a proposed half-penny sales tax to benefit MDC. The college projects the five-year-long hike, if approved by voters, would raise about $1 billion.

This same half-penny bill has been proposed three times before, with anti-tax lawmakers repeatedly refusing to allow the question to go on the ballot. Past polling suggests the measure has a strong chance of passing, should it ever reach county voters.

This year, Padrón said it is a group of conservative Miami-Dade House Republicans who are trying to kill the measure — going beyond simply voting against it to organize broader opposition, a campaign he said had "crossed the line."

"They want to show their force," Padrón said. "It’s who has more power, and who can show more power."

Padrón identified the measure’s four key foes as state Reps. Jose Oliva, Carlos Trujillo, Michael Bileca, and Frank Artiles.

Two of the lawmakers reached on Tuesday, Oliva and Trujillo, quickly fired back, calling Padrón’s attack uninformed and unfair.

Oliva, in line to take over the influential House Speaker’s post in four years, said he is opposed to increasing taxes on a community that is still recovering from a bad economy.

He called it "unfortunate" that Padrón had turned to personal attacks.

"Is this the kind of reactionary response we can expect when we disagree with leaders in our community?" said Oliva, who represents Miami Lakes.

Read more here.