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Tax-Free Web Could Be Ending


While online retail sales totaled $13 billion last year, sales taxes were collected on only 20 percent of transactions, according to Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. The problem of lost tax revenues will grow dramatically as online sales grow to $184 billion in 2004, the firm projected. In the words of Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, the states face “a very, very difficult situation. For some states, it’s going to be a disaster. Then they’ll either have to cut services massively or seek an alternate revenue source.”

But that was just part of the dilemma the governors took to the White House and to Congress last week. For as forcefully as Leavitt argued about the need to protect sales taxes as a source of revenue, governors from Virginia and California, and to some degree George Pataki of New York, all representing Internet business centers, warned against imposing any taxes that might stifle the evolution of electronic commerce and Internet transactions. “I certainly don’t want to kill the golden goose that is laying the golden egg,” said California Gov. Gray Davis.

In their meetings with President Clinton and congressional leaders, the governors urged that the federal government not pre-empt the states. In resolving a related dispute over how to collect sales taxes on catalog purchases, the Supreme Court in 1992 barred states from taxing out-of-state catalog sales and directed Congress to define the commercial and tax marketplace. Congress responded with a moratorium on any Internet taxes that expires in October 2001.

Gasoline Price Hike Expected Soon


The government told motorists Monday to get used to high gasoline prices through the summer vacation season and predicted that regular gasoline could reach $1.80 a gallon.

The spike in prices -- already inching toward $1.50 a gallon at Washington area gas stations -- is likely to occur even if the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agrees later this month, as the U.S. expects, to increase its production of crude oil, the Energy Department said in its latest monthly forecast.

But prices could soar even more, the department said, if the OPEC cartel declines to increase production. As it is now, worldwide consumption of oil is 2 million barrels a day greater than supply.

The oil producers cut production by 4 million barrels a day over the past year in a successful effort to boost oil prices. Oil prices have soared from $11 a barrel in late 1998 to more than $30 a barrel at the moment. Light, sweet crude oil for April delivery closed at $32.18 Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange -- the highest closing price since November 1990.

Bradley’s Final Presidential Push


The guest was Bill Bradley, and the hundreds of students jammed into a stately campus hall at Brown University late last week buzzed with anticipation.

In what appears to be the waning days of the Bradley campaign, increasingly there are moments like these when the candidate seems to be just going through the motions.

On Sunday, with the crush of 16 Democratic primaries and caucuses less than 48 hours away, his schedule was appropriately hectic as he campaigned in New York, Maryland and Ohio. But with polls showing him running far behind Al Gore in all three states, Bradley appears to be laying the groundwork for a graceful exit from the race.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Bradley did take a swipe at Gore, characterizing him as a politician voters “can barely tolerate.” But he also acknowledged that the harsh tone that had marked the Democratic race had “calmed down.”