The Republican party has relatively few assets today: we trail in voter ID, we have lost ground in many states, and we have no ‘levers of power’ in Washington. The party has lost credibility on spending issues, and voters are unsure what we stand for. If you needed proof, just look at how many grassroots activists attending the Tea Parties say that they are as frustrated with the Republican Party as with Democrats.

And as if all that were not bad enough, Republicans in the Florida State Senate are willing to fritter away the party’s brand on taxation, by unanimously backing a tax increase on tobacco products:

The Florida Senate passed a stitched-together $65.6 billion spending plan Thursday that pays the bills with a huge infusion of federal stimulus cash, higher taxes on tobacco and fees on motorists and court-filers, along with a dramatic expansion of gambling.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 39-0 to send its budget plan to the House, where GOP leaders are proposing higher fees, deeper cuts, and no trace of higher tobacco taxes or the gambling expansion favored by senators…

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said the $1 billion built into the plan through a $1 hike on packs of cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco was a responsible approach to the burgeoning health care costs taxpayers are absorbing partially thanks to sick smokers.

“It is asking folks to pay a bit more for health costs they incur through there own actions,” Alexander said. “We think that’s a fair and equitable tax.”

Before this vote, the one thing you could say about the Republican party is that it always opposed tax increases. Now some Republicans in Florida want to compromise that as well, and leave the party as lost on taxing issues as it has been on spending.

If you vote in Florida, contact your representatives in the State legislature here, and tell them to oppose higher taxes – especially highly regressive taxes such as this one. Tell them not to throw away one of the party’s few remaining assets in the vain hopes that Democrats will call them ‘compassionate;’ it’s never going to happen.

And regardless of where you live, remember that Florida Governor Charlie Crist is considering a bid for higher office. He’s weighing a Senate run, and he might even appear on a national ticket someday. Let him know that when he does, you’ll remember how he handled this issue. His e-mail address is: [email protected]