© St. Petersburg Times, published October 23, 2002
In hopes of dulling the edge of a scathing Republican ad suggesting his spending ideas could require an income tax, Bill McBride has launched a new TV spot accusing Gov. Jeb Bush of using "scare tactics and fake numbers" against him.
The 30-second spot shows McBride in a classroom as a voice says the only new tax the Democratic candidate proposes for education is a 50-cent-per-pack cigarette tax.
"That's the only tax he'll raise," the announcer says. "So why is Bush resorting to scare tactics and fake numbers?"
Republicans, however, point out that McBride wants to end eight sales tax exemptions worth $51-million a year.
They include tax exemptions on the purchase of machinery by new businesses, the purchase of contact lens molds over $100,000, the leasing of property between specific corporations, and complimentary meals provided by hotels.
McBride says those tax breaks don't serve the public interest.
Republicans, however, say removing an exemption is a tax increase to those who have to pay it.
McBride also calls for ending the Corporate Income Tax Scholarship Credit, which allows corporations to avoid state tax by giving money to private schools. That would give the state another $50-million for education, he says.
McBride's new ad was meant to control any damage done by a new Bush ad launched over the weekend calling on McBride to be honest about how he would pay for his spending plans and raising the prospect of higher sales taxes, property taxes or the imposition of an income tax.
No governor could enact an income tax without a constitutional amendment approved by voters, an unlikely prospect.
"One thing is for sure: $29-billion in new McBride spending means billions in new McBride taxes," the Bush ad says.
The $29-billion figure is based mostly on one of the highest and most controversial of many estimates for an eight-year phase-in of an amendment to reduce class size on the Nov. 5 ballot.
State economists came up with the figure based on a method rarely used in Florida government of cumulatively adding operating costs each year until 2010. Other estimates range from $8-billion to $13-billion. McBride supports the amendment, but hasn't said how he would pay for it.
Bush opposes the class size amendment because he says the state can't afford it and also hasn't said how he would pay for it.