PoliFact rules Jeff Brandes claims about Bill Heller raising taxes as "mostly true"

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On property taxes, Heller did support a 2004 referendum in Pinellas County to raise property taxes to increase teacher pay by providing $26 million at the time in additional revenue. Voters overwhelmingly passed it. Heller wasn't in the House then, but he chaired the campaign supporting the measure. The measure raised taxes 50 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value. At the time, the owner of a $150,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay an extra $62.50 a year.

But he also voted for a 2007 measure that voters later approved to cut property taxes by doubling the $25,000 homestead exemption. It was estimated to drop the average tax bill $240 at the time, though savings depended on individual property assessments.

On businesses, Heller voted for Senate Bill 810 in 2009 that extended unemployment compensation for Floridians up to 20 weeks. It also raised the tax that businesses have to pay into the fund for unemployment assistance. After Republicans successfully turned back attempts to accept $444 million in stimulus money, the bill passed with a 117-0 vote.

The other claims that Brandes makes are less grounded in reality.

Heller voted against a federal balanced budget measure in 2010, but it was a non-binding resolution asking Congress to call a constitutional convention for an amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. The measure carried no weight, as the Florida House doesn't have any control over the federal budget, let alone did it add debt on children. The resolution passed the House, 70-42, and the Senate, 28-12. It did not require the governor's signature.

While Heller did vote in 2009 and 2010 against budget bills that included annual 7 percent pay cuts for lawmakers, he actually voted for the cut in 2010 when it was approved as an amendment. The amendment for the 2009 cut was approved without a roll call vote, meaning it had little controversy. The pay cuts were approved in the budget and were signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist each year.

The verdict of "Mostly True" on Brandes calling out Heller on raising taxes comes as both the current and former mayors of St. Petersburg, Rick Baker and Bill Foster, have come out to endorse Brandes over the popular Heller, sometimes referred to as "Santa Claus" for the wealth of good will that he engenders.

But good will ain't going to get it done for the USF administrator unless Democrats come to the polls in strong numbers in the short time left before the polls close Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

The St. Pete Times' David DeCamp (who is a font of info on the goings-on in Pinellas County on the paper's Bay Buzz blog) has sat down and done the research on claims made by District 52 Republican aspirant Jeff Brandes against his Democratic incumbent opponent, Bill Heller.

Everything in this race is relevant, with the vote expected to be close on Tuesday night in the Pinellas County district, one of the most fiercely battled in the state, with the Florida Republican Party hungry to recapture the seat that Heller has held the last four years.

DeCamp breaks down six different votes Heller has taken, one on a referendum in Pinellas, and five votes as a member of the House of Representatives, and ultimately surmises that, well, check it out for yourself:

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