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Taxes may dominate CFO debate

Published November 1, 2006


Tonight, Tampa Bay residents can watch the final face-off between chief financial officer candidates Republican Tom Lee and Democrat Alex Sink as each endeavors to persuade voters that he or she will take better care of the state's purse.

As the debate likely will show, this largely beneath-the-radar race has evolved into a contest for the title of most fiscally conservative.

Who is the better bearer of that crown - state Senate president Lee with his decade in the Legislature, or former bank president Sink with her two decades in the finance industry - is a matter the candidates will slug out for much of the 30-minute segment that was taped Monday.

And that means talk of taxes - who raised them, tried to raise them, urged raising them and who cut them.

Watch for Lee to ask Sink about her support, while a Gov. Lawton Chiles appointee to the Governor's Commission on Education, for an expansion of a utilities tax to build more schools in 1997.

Watch for Sink to ask Lee why the state's percentage of school funding has decreased while local property owners' percentage has increased under Lee's watch on the state Senate.

Watch for both to become defensive, even slightly combative, as they trade accusations. Lee will paint Sink as being less than open about her true stripes as an advocate for tax increases. Sink will fire back by saying Lee, as a public officeholder, is the only one of the two who has ever had the power to raise taxes.

Sink: "I've never been an elected official so I couldn't have voted a tax on the people."

Lee: "I have voted for over $14-billion in tax reductions."

Beyond taxes, listen as the two describe the office of chief financial officer in a way that plays to their background; sometimes it may sound like they are describing two different jobs.

Put simply, Lee's CFO is the state's leader on financial and insurance legislation; the person who fills those shoes will need Lee's understanding of the legislative process. Sink's CFO is a watchdog over the state's checkbook and contracts; the person in the job will need her accounting and finance experience.

Watch tonight to make up your mind which candidate - and which CFO job description - you want to win out.



Tonight's chief financial officer debate airs at 8 on WEDU-TV Ch. 3 (PBS).

Tonight's CFO debate airs at 8 p.m. on WEDU-TV (PBS, Ch.3).

[Last modified November 1, 2006, 06:58:13]

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