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Today's Letters: Some solutions for tax problems

By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published March 21, 2007


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A number of proposals are under consideration by the Florida Legislature for property tax relief. Concerns abound as to the effects of various proposals on different "interest groups" (such as county and city budgets, seniors on fixed incomes, business interests, "snowbirds" who own second houses, renters, long-term or short-term property owners, etc.).

The issue frequently devolves to "what is fair," which is usually in the eye of the beholder, whether taxes should be regressive or progressive, and the impact on services provided and who benefits from those services.

Given the unlikely agreement by all parties about "fairness," perhaps property tax plans should consider the principle that similarly situated taxpayers should be taxed similarly. The problem with this is that it is difficult to get agreement on what that means in practical terms.

Equity usually boils down to a matter of political, social and economic debate. And what is more fair: to pay according to ability, or according to equality? And what is equal? Is the house next door valued the same as yours?

One analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Public Policy shows that nationwide, contrary to popular belief, property taxes are regressive. In other words, sales taxes as a replacement are not a total solution to that part of the problem (http:// www.itepnet.org/pb10cb.pdf).

Perhaps we can just muddle through with a combination of ideas for across the board tax relief while protecting low-income citizens (not just seniors) with targeted limitations, while continuing to provide a reasonable level of services.

Consider the following as a whole package - each piece by itself contains pros and cons; taken as a whole, some issues are resolved or offset by other components of the plan.

Eliminate all present caps on valuations of all property to account for rising valuations; use fair market value to assess all property; place a reasonable cap on increased spending for public services (including education) to limit the millage rate increases of all taxing authorities, taking into account inflationary and growth effects; provide "property value exemptions" of a certain amount on a graduated scale after taxing all property (business and residential) up to a minimum value.

For example, pay full ad valorem and non-ad valorem taxes on the first $25,000 of value, the next $25,000 being exempt, the next $25,000 being taxed, and so on. Add a "circuit breaker" based on income - for example, if a property tax bill exceeds some percentage of some maximum income level for individuals (say 3 percent of personal income up to $250,000), then that is the maximum to be paid as a property tax.

Assume renters are paying 20 percent of rent as a "pass-through" property tax. If this rent exceeds 3 percent of their income, a refund of "taxes paid" can be claimed. Finally, if budgeted county services (up to the reasonable cap noted above) are forecast to result in a shortfall based on projected revenues, then institute a temporary one-year sales tax for the following fiscal year at a rate required to eliminate the imbalance.

This might appear more complex than it really is. Administrative details and implementation should be less daunting than first meets the eye. The intent is to "share the pain" while "reducing the pain" and resolve some of the "fairness" concerns.

Hopefully such a plan will reduce what appears to be one of the uncertainty factors creating an impasse on the housing market and Florida's economy.

Lawrence Jauch, Homosassa

Wild animals are meant to be free

It is a shame that some teachers are misleading our children into thinking that it is somehow awesome to view dolphins, orcas and other wild animals that are taken out of their natural habitats and confined to comparatively small tanks.

Ric O'Barry trained the five dolphins that played Flipper in the hit 1960s TV series. He turned against this practice when Flipper died in his arms from suicide.

O'Barry said, "I use that word with some trepidation, but I don't know another word that describes self-induced asphyxiation. Dolphins and other whales are not automatic breathers. Every breath they take is a conscious effort, which is why they don't sleep. If life becomes miserable, they just don't take the next breath. Flipper looked me in the eye and stopped breathing."

There is nothing educational about watching how whales live in captivity. Let's teach our children respect for wildlife and the environment. Let these mammals travel the hundreds of miles in the ocean that they were born to do.

Isabel Stawicki, Beverly Hills

Local section will be missed

As I have read different subscribers' reactions to the Citrus Times no longer being published, I realize I'm not alone in feeling sad. I will most certainly maintain my subscription to the St. Petersburg Times as it is a very fine paper but I do wish a local section could be published maybe just once a week.

I have so enjoyed the Citrus Times and its fine staff, I will miss you.

Madeleine O'Brien, Dunnellon

Brown-Waite's words are hollow

The circumstances and situations that our wounded military members are being subjected to are absolutely deplorable. The hypocrisy of military generals and of members of Congress is exceeded only by that of the president and vice president. They declare how much they support the troops, how valuable the sacrifice of life and limb is in their fight against "terror," and then allow and condone their mistreatment when placed in medical care.

Right on the top rung of the ladder of hypocrisy is our own flag-waving, slogan-spouting, peace-bashing congressional representative, Ginny Brown-Waite. She continuously claims to be the righteous cheerleader for supporting the troops and supporting the war. She also supports sending the flag-covered caskets of our slain warriors home in the dark of night, forbidding the public the right to honor these brave souls under the guise of "respect to the family."

Brown-Waite must certainly adhere to the Rove-Bush policy of "out of sight, out of mind."

She obviously also has supported the inadequate care our wounded are receiving, for to deny that she had knowledge of their treatment is to openly admit she has lied about doing everything she can for them.

I have no doubt she has a box full of medals that she is just jumping to present in front of some press photographer. Brown-Waite has shown time and time again that her words are hollow, that her actions are self-serving and that her ability to care is limited to her political career. How else can she continue to do the congressional two-step shuffle as our troops continue to suffer?

She may try to deny the horror of battle and its aftermath; however, she cannot deny her complicity in the horror of this despicable treatment of our troops.

Bob E. Dodd, Dade City

Your voice counts

We welcome letters from readers for publication. To send a letter from your computer, go to www.tampabay.com/letters and fill in the required information. Type your letter in the space provided on the form, specify that you are writing the Citrus section of the newspaper, and then click "submit." You also may cut and paste a letter that you have prepared elsewhere in your computer.

If you prefer, you may fax your letter to (352) 860-7320, or mail it to Letters to the Editor, Citrus Times, 301 W Main St., Inverness, FL 34450.

All letters should be brief and must include the writer's name, city of residence, mailing address and telephone number. When possible, letters should include a handwritten signature. Addresses and telephone numbers will not be printed. The Times does not publish anonymous letters.

Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be printed.

[Last modified March 20, 2007, 21:15:25]


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