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No Action on Florida Service Tax

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After nearly a month of wrangling with Gov. Bob Martinez, Florida lawmakers abruptly adjourned a second special session last week without acting to either revise or repeal the state's controversial tax on services.

The services tax will now remain in effect until lawmakers reconvene in December. It is expected to generate at least $721 million in revenues this fiscal year. The state's education community has estimated that repeal of the tax--as Mr. Martinez has proposed--would cost the public schools as much as $265 million in 1987-88.

Earlier this month, the Governor vetoed a bill that would have substantially revised the tax but kept it in place. The bill also would have required a voter referendum on the issue.

In the wake of last week's standoff, the Florida Education Association-United, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers,4moved to broaden the debate by calling for the creation of a statewide personal-income tax.

According to Pat Tornillo, president of the union, Florida has been ''living on borrowed time and borrowed taxes."

Until a better source of revenue is assured, he said, "It's still like the sword of Damacles is hanging over our heads--when are they going to cut us? We're just facing utter destruction in terms of the needs of education."

The fea-United has called for a 1 percent personal-income tax that would exempt persons earning below $40,000 a year. A three-fifths vote of the legislature would be needed to change the percentage.

The union plans to circulate petitions in favor of a constitutional amendment to permit the income tax. Lawmakers also plan to hold hearings around the state this fall to sample citizens' opinions on the tax issue.--lo

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