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SPOT CHECK

Editor's note: As television ads appear in the Florida governor's race, they will be described and analyzed by the Times.

Candidate: Jeb Bush

Opponent: Lawton Chiles

Producer of ad: National Media Inc.

The ad: Bush speaks earnestly into the camera, shaking his head dolefully. "Four years ago, Lawton Chiles promised to downsize government and hold down taxes, and we believed him. Instead, he's added 8,000 state employees and asked for $3.5-billion in new taxes. Now he's trying to hide his liberal record by running a smear campaign. And what he's telling you about the business I built and the taxes I paid, that's another lie." On the screen, headlines are shown that say "Chiles turns nasty to stop Bush" and "Chiles errs in attacks on Bush." "But you know what is true," Bush says. "He's already said he'll raise your taxes again next year. Higher taxes and broken promises. That's all we'll get from Lawton Chiles."

Analysis: A smear campaign begets a smear campaign. This ad responds to a negative ad Chiles launched against Bush last week. Then Bush lays into Chiles on taxes. Bush's numbers are accurate, or close enough. State employment has grown by 7,400 since Chiles took office while the state grew by 700,000 people. But state employment grew by about 25,000 in four years under Gov. Bob Martinez. And Florida still has one of the lowest rates of state employees per capita. Chiles sought a tax overhaul that would have increased taxes by $2.5-billion a year, but the combination of a services tax and higher corporate taxes would have been combined with a property tax rollback. That's basically the framework Chiles is still seeking but with a big difference Bush never mentions. Chiles says he's given up on the Legislature and will seek voter approval of his proposed tax reform. Chiles did make false accusations against Bush last week, such as the assertion that Bush didn't vote in 1992. Chiles also charged that Bush and his partner profited from a taxpayer bail-out of a failed S&L, a charge that Bush has repeatedly denied.

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