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    Panel sees urgent need for tax reform

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 10, 2002

    Florida urgently needs to broaden and diversify its tax base, says a panel of civic leaders, public officials and university scholars called together this weekend by former Gov. Reubin Askew.

    Voting Saturday after a discussion of Florida's problems in the wake of Sept. 11, the group overwhelmingly agreed that tax reform is needed.

    "Effectiveness and reliability, that is our biggest problem," Askew said as the group discussed the state's continued reliance on a sales tax.

    In addition to the problems that stem from a reduction in tourism as a result of the terrorist attacks, Askew said he thinks the state will also face a reduction in sales tax revenue as a result of increasing e-commerce.

    Every year Askew presides over a two-day conference at the University of Florida in Gainesville to discuss a problem facing the state. The conference is sponsored by the Askew Institute on Politics and Society, a public policy institute at the university. The conference this year included a number of elected officials, current and former legislators, journalists and university officials from all over the state.

    Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney opened the conference Thursday night with a speech suggesting that Sept. 11 has created an opportunity for innovative thinking and action.

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