SANTA ROSA INSIDER: Candidate Changes “No New Taxes” Stance

Posted on June 25, 2024 by EDITORIAL BOARD

A county commission candidate who fought hard to defeat a 2019 special election aimed to double the local option sales tax has changed his tune. Now former longtime Democrat Jerry Couey wants to “accelerate” it.

The switcheroo comes after six failed attempts at holding public office. 

Couey was a Democrat for 15 years and initially ran on the Democratic ticket for Property Appraiser. After his first defeat, he swapped to the Republican Party before losing twice more in that race in 1996 and 2000. He then decided to run for District 3 County Commissioner, losing in 2004 and 2020. He also lost a 2008 attempt to become Santa Rosa County’s State Committeeman. 

Currently he’s thrown his hat into the ring for D3 race for a third time, and dramatically flipped his position on raising taxes. Will the 7th time running for an elected office be the charm or will he finally be put out to pasture?

“I don’t think there’s a lot of fat in the budget,” Couey said during the 2023-2024 budget hearing process.

During the April 4, 2024 county budget hearing, Couey said he welcomes newcomers to Santa Rosa County and thinks additional help via is needed for infrastructure.

“I welcome our new neighbors here. I’ve said it 100 times. I’m glad they want to live in Santa Rosa County,” Couey said. “We all recognize that we build a lot of houses in SRC, and I’ll say it again, welcome. Come on in, be a part of our community.”

However, opponents of the proposed tax hike say some Santa Rosa County neighbors are struggling to make ends meet under Bidenflation and that we shouldn’t burden them by doubling the LOST tax during this difficult economy.

Additionally, another consideration is how Santa Rosa’s revenues have skyrocketed over the past decade.

Annual property tax revenues have nearly DOUBLED from $46 million in 2015 to more than $90 million in 2024. That’s an extra $50 million PER YEAR in the budget for the county.

Furthermore, the existing LOST generated more than $45 million during its first five-year period from 2017 – 2022. From that same period, $3.5 million remained unspent and was carried forward into the second five-year period, which expires in early 2027. It’s projected that nearly $75 million, or possibly more, will be generated before the second and current LOST sunsets.

Before voting to double the LOST burden for the future, we should take a fine-toothed comb to explore where tens upon tens of millions more each year are being spent.

At the end of the day, Couey can’t seem to make up his mind. He’s a Democrat, no he’s a Republican. He wants to be Property Appraiser, no he wants to be a county commissioner. He’s for no new taxes, no he’s for them. We don’t need someone who flip flops so much on the dais!

Rep. Joel Rudman has attended multiple campaign events for Couey. They’re pictured below at a June 22 ice cream social in East Milton. Submitted photo.