Today's Letters: Rush to achieve tax relief may overlook equity

Published March 12, 2007

Does the state Legislature ever do anything through calm deliberation? The Florida House seems to be on a quick pace to disaster over the issue of property tax relief. It makes one feel like one is watching the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.

In the hysteria over property tax relief, the Legislature somehow fails to grasp that the real culprits here are the inequities within the state's tax structure. They allow for large groups to escape carrying their fair share of the tax load while placing an undue burden on others.

For example, the state sales taxes exempt so many different categories (for reasons unknown but to God) that those who do pay have to pay a higher rate than might otherwise have to be. The property taxes are much the same, where people who have lived in the same home for years pay ridiculously lower taxes than a comparable homeowner right next door who just bought the property.

The problem in Florida is not the overall tax load, which when compared to other states is not bad; it is the lack of equity and fairness. Floridians live in one of the fastest growing states in the union. Roads, public transportation, schools, water, garbage collection, police and fire protection do not come cheap. If the load was spread out where all would pay a fair share, the burden would not be as heavy on those who have to carry it.

Of course, in order to do that the Legislature would have to buck the very people who paid for their campaigns in the first place. Only one thing will bring about this equity, and that is pressure from all of us; and until we make it clear to those legislators that we want a fairer tax structure, this game will continue.

Rene J. Tamargo, Tampa


State should not act savagely 

Lethal injections are horribly flawed March 4, editorial

Do we hear ourselves? Now we're talking about how inefficiently we put someone to death as punishment for a crime. Not whether we should put someone to death, mind you, but how well we do it. It brings new meaning to the "method to our madness."

The Times discussed in great detail the botched execution of Angel Diaz. Since, understandably, the Florida Medical Association and AMA bar physicians from participating in executions, the editors realized how difficult it might be to procure qualified medical personnel needed to accomplish "a humane and lawful execution" and concluded, "That is another reason why the state should abolish capital punishment." Good. But there is a better reason.

It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens. It seems to me if there are nonlethal means to defend and protect its citizens from the lawbreaker, the state should act humanely, not savagely. The cost of life imprisonment does not justify the inhumane punishment of death. How can an execution be "humane"?

We call ourselves a Christian nation, yet we often fail to respect the life God gave us by destroying its very beginning as an embryo, its growth as a fetus, its presumed ending as a comatose patient in a "permanent vegetative state."

Do we hear ourselves? "It's going to be destroyed anyway," "It's my body, my choice," "It's a terrible way to live, remove the feeding tube."

Yes, we hear ourselves but cannot hear the embryo, the fetus, the comatose patient and now, someone like Angel Diaz, pleading for their life.

Jack Bray, Dunedin


What's the fuss? 

Lethal injections are horribly flawed March 4, editorial

It does not take a physician to insert an IV catheter. All paramedics, LPNs, RNs (who are already employed in the jails) have IV skills. There are a couple of ways to see if the IV site is unobstructed. So I do not see why these employees cannot perform the lethal injections.

Another point is these criminals did not care when they performed their particular brand of punishment on their victims, so why all the fuss over some murderer getting a taste of his own medicine?

Harry Charvat, Hudson


Fat can be cut

I lived in California in the 1970s when Proposition 13 was passed, putting a cap on property taxes. At the time, there were cries from local governments about how the loss of revenue would lead to libraries closing, fire departments being unable to fund their services, parks closing, etc. Many of my friends who worked for local government were convinced they would lose their jobs.

The tax-cutting proposals now being considered in Florida are bringing out very similar warnings.

Well, after Prop 13 was passed, none of my friends lost their jobs. And neither I, nor anyone else I knew, saw any significant reductions in any government services. The conclusion I drew from the Prop 13 experience was that governments could find ways to cut fat and get as much done with less money ... if they were forced to do so.

Alan Reeder-Camponi, St. Petersburg


Focus on spending 

Time to make tax system fair March 6, editorial

Your dismissal of the Republican plan without argument is telling. You characterize the plan as one that will "strangle government with tax rollbacks and revenue caps" and thus is just "clearly the wrong direction." Like most liberal stances, yours is unwilling to allow that this might not be just a tax problem, but a spending problem as well.

Businesses are required to constantly evolve, reducing administrative costs, increasing productivity and finding ways to do more with less just to remain competitive. When is the last time you saw a government entity do any of these things? Why would they when they are assured of bigger budgets each and every year? If government will not become efficient on its own, it must be forced to do so.

The regressive nature of the sales tax can, and should be, addressed. But contrary to your perspective, I believe reducing spending is "clearly the right direction" and should be part and parcel of any change in the tax system.

Tom Booker, Oldsmar


Address health 

Governor's State of the State address

Gov. Charlie Crist delivered a moving speech and one that offers hope to all Floridians. I would, however, suggest a few more worthy goals for Florida in the form of the governor's "why not's."

Can Florida be the healthiest state? Why not?

Can Florida offer hope and an opportunity for recovery for those with mental illness and substance use disorders? Why not?

Can we improve Florida's ranking among states in investments in mental health and substance abuse systems? Why not?

Can we help more mentally ill individuals and those with substance use disorders complete their education, find permanent housing and gain competitive employment? Of course we can and should.

Bob Sharpe, president, Florida Council for Community Mental Health, Tallahassee


Learning is better 

Security red tape chokes off jobs, dollars March 5, editorial

This editorial focuses on the immediate economic effects of our restrictive visa policies. It fails to emphasize the long-range effect on our ability to communicate with and understand other cultures and for them to understand us. This is far more important than short-term economic gain or loss.

Foreign students learning in our universities come to know us as we are, not the way we are depicted in their homeland. We come to see them as they are, not the way they are depicted in the press, the movies and on television. It is important for us to welcome foreign students to our colleges and universities and to encourage our American students to study at universities abroad.

Are we really headed for a clash of civilizations? Well, before we clash, let's mingle and talk a little.

Joseph A. Mahon, St. Petersburg