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Crist, lawmakers want to revive August tax break

Gov. Charlie Crist and leading legislators on Monday called for a revival of the sales tax break on back-to school items such as backpacks and pencils. The August tax break has been eliminated for the past two years because of the state's perilous revenue picture, but headed into an election year, Crist and  lawmakers are embracing the tax, which has been popular with Florida consumers since its inception in 1998.

"I can't think of a better way to try to stimulate the economy than by reducing taxes," Crist said. "It's time to get back to basics and do the right thing."

Approval of the tax break would mean an estimated $44-million less money for lawmakers to build next year's budget. But a study commissioned by retailers contends that a back to school sales tax holiday would have boosted sales of school items, resulting in a $118-million net increase in state and local tax revenues. The study was done by Tony Villamil's Washington Economics Group in Coral Gables.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, joined Crist at a news conference along with Rick McAllister of the Florida Retail Federation.

-- Steve Bousquet