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    New tactic in tax fight: financial disclosure

    Foes of the Senate tax revision plan reveal their backers and call on fans of the measure to show their contributor lists.

    By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 14, 2002


    Opponents of a plan to overhaul Florida's tax system tried to seize the high ground Wednesday by identifying contributors to their campaign and by calling on Senate President John McKay to do the same.

    Some of the state's most powerful special interests are fueling the antitax campaign.

    The Coalition to Protect Florida's Economy, the group formed to fight McKay's proposal, reported receiving $139,000. Donors included: Florida Association of Realtors, $50,000; Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, $50,000; Florida Phosphate Council, $25,000; Florida Farm Bureau, $5,000; Jefferson Smurfit Corp. (whose interests include paper products), $5,000; Florida United Business Association, $2,500; Florida Manufacturing and Chemical Council, $1,500.

    Not included are the broadcasting companies that have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of television time for ads attacking the proposal.

    The Senate's controversial plan would let voters decide whether to lower the state sales tax from 6 percent to 4.5 percent and spread the tax to dozens of goods and services now exempt.

    Cory Tilley, spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement that it wanted to go beyond its legal requirements and identify the donors because "there have been numerous accusations of special interest influence throughout this debate." McKay should reveal who is backing his proposal, Tilley said.

    However, the group did not reveal the donors until a group advocating McKay's proposal, Citizens for a Tax Rollback Inc., began airing its own ad.

    McKay could not be reached for comment, but state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, a leading backer of the McKay plan, said groups such as Citizens for a Tax Rollback routinely advocate positions without disclosing their financial backers.

    "I'm glad there are people who care about this issue and are willing to fight fire with fire," Latvala said. About 150 members of another group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, fanned out across the Capitol on Wednesday to lobby against the McKay plan.

    -- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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