"The whole economic structure in the Cayman Islands has been based on having no direct taxation," he said in a phone interview.
Many people complain that Bush's proposal was made without public consultation and note that it came roughly three years after a government-commissioned report said a payroll tax combined with the work permit fees would make the Caymans less competitive in the market for skilled professionals.
And it's not just finance types who are troubled. At a small beach in downtown George Town, local fishermen gutted glistening jacks and snappers debated the merits of the new tax. They agreed that overspending and excessive hiring by the government was behind the islands' financial difficulties.
"The way I see it, this tax on expats is causing a division in this society and that's not good. It's too much spending by the government that got us here," said fishing boat captain Dennis Downs, sitting next to a table displaying the morning catch.
Bush said he is looking for any feasible alternative for solving the government's revenue problems and rumors are swirling that he may withdraw the tax proposal because of the heated reaction.
On Saturday, he told local TV station Cayman 27 that he was open to recasting the "community enhancement fee" on expats but only "if a solution can be found that does not affect ordinary Caymanians."
Even if it is revoked, some believe damage has already been done.
"It has stirred up so much uncertainty," said Fordham. "It's hard to say if this place could ever be the same."
David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd
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