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    Spot check

    Editor's note: To help voters evaluate political ads, Times reporters review and analyze content.

    By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Tallahassee Deputy Bureau Chief
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 11, 2002

    AD SPONSOR: The Coalition to Protect Florida's Economy and the Florida Association of Broadcasters, which opposes Senate President John McKay's plan to change the tax system

    THE AD: The words "1987 Service Tax" change to "2002 Service Tax" and the letter "S" turns into a dollar sign. The screen shows a rolling list of services opponents say would be taxed, from Seeing Eye dogs to school textbooks, and the ad ends by giving the Capitol office phone numbers of McKay and House Speaker Tom Feeney. "Here they go again," a narrator says. "Some of the politicians in Tallahassee are bringing back the 1987 service tax. But this 2002 version is bigger. An income tax for many, and a gigantic tax increase for all Floridians. Just look at some of the services that will be taxed. Fight back. Call or e-mail your state legislator today and say, "Ax the tax.' "

    ANALYSIS: Lawmakers have dreaded these ads, and it's easy to see why. But by comparing the McKay plan to the immensely unpopular, ill-fated 1987 services tax, opponents are wrong on two counts. First, the '87 plan did not reduce the sales tax -- McKay would cut it from 6 percent to 4 percent -- and voters would decide whether the plan takes effect. (Legislators adopted the 1987 tax, not voters.) The spot also calls McKay's plan an income tax, based on the claim that any small business that can't pass a tax onto its customers must pay for it. There is no way the opponents can prove another ad claim that McKay's plan is a "gigantic tax increase for all Floridians." But it sounds scary, and scaring people, including legislators, is what these ads are all about.

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