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Today's Letters: The time is right for a state income tax

By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published April 1, 2007


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Sure, it's unconstitutional, but ... March 25, Perspective graphic 

I'm pleased that your set of possible solutions to Florida's tax dilemma includes a constitutional amendment authorizing enactment of a modest 3 percent income tax, a solution you apparently have long considered reasonable but politically not feasible.

Now that you have featured it, I hope you will keep the idea at the forefront of your paper's tax-policy recommendations. The timing seems right: We have a new governor who doesn't appear to be prejudiced against it and a background of crisis created by a grossly distorted property tax. Let Florida join the 43 states that have an income tax.

- The sales tax: Revenue from an income tax would render unnecessary a 2.5 percentage point increase in the sales tax increase, a good result because the sales tax is regressive, and Florida's - at 6 percent plus local government add-ons - is already among the nation's highest. Further increases will seriously affect the tourist trade.

- The property tax: We have allowed our concern for the low-income elderly, widowed homeowner (homestead exemption, the Save Our Homes tax cap) to turn the property tax into a hydra-headed monster that is grossly unfair to many more homeowners than the exemptions were designed to assist. The solution is not to be found in elimination of the property tax but rather in substantially reducing its impact on all classes of taxpayers. Again, revenue sharing from an income tax would compensate for repeal of the Save Our Homes cap and make possible substantial reductions in property tax rates.

Let's go forward into the 21st century with a more equitable, better balanced, more progressive tax system than currently exists.

Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg

 

Tax services, too 

Sure, it's unconstitutional, but ... March 25, Perspective graphic

For gosh sakes! Isn't there at least one representative and one senator up there in Tallahassee with enough spunk to recognize the big, $27-billion elephant in the room and push for its discussion as a part of the "tax reform" package?

Currently, our sales tax revenues, amounting to some $16-billion, are assessments on the sale of goods. Meanwhile potential tax revenues of as much as $27-billion on the sale of services remain untapped.

Exempting this source of sales tax revenue, based on the sale of services, creates an unfair tax burden on the sellers of goods. They are left to shoulder the escalating costs of government, along with the citizens' property tax dollars.

I recognize that a Legislature dominated by members of the legal profession - and service providers as well - will not be very receptive to this discussion. However, to create a truly fair and full distribution of the tax burden among all sectors of our state community, this is one elephant that must not be ignored.

Wallace Witham, Belleair Bluffs

 

Renters pay plenty 

Sure, it's unconstitutional, but ... March 25, Perspective graphic

In this Perspective section article you show in your third example that renters pay no property tax. Their rent includes the tax that the owner pays, and since it is without homestead exemption or the Save Our Homes tax cap, it is at the highest rate.

If you average the property tax between the first and second examples, the renter's property tax would be about $3,000.

That value should be added to columns one and two and most likely column three, because at present taxes on nonhomestead property are going to be continued.

That would make the renters paying the most tax of all.

Bill Armstrong, Largo

 

She can take the Fifth 

No crime? Then you have to testify March 29, Susan Estrich column

Susan Estrich is supposed to be a law professor. She should know that the Fifth Amendment privilege is absolute unless a defendant either waives it or is granted some form of immunity from prosecution.

If a Senate committee has evidence of a crime and a potential witness won't voluntarily testify, then it should grant immunity in order to gain more information. Estrich should know that refusal to testify in and of itself is not proof of guilt.

In our system of justice, the burden of proof is on the accuser. Either the Senate is on a fishing expedition or it has some sort of evidence that a crime was committed. Whatever Monica Goodling or her lawyer said while not under oath has no legal weight. She cannot be compelled to testify - unless Estrich is advocating torture to obtain testimony.

Leonard Martino, Tampa

 

Irony on privacy 

Tapping into privacy March 25, Robyn Blumner column

Robyn Blumner properly questioned the erosion of our privacy rights under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, characterizing it as "arrogance and a culture of unaccountability and imperviousness."

Ironically, the same day, the New York Times reported that Largo City Manager Steve Stanton's plan to undergo a sex change operation later this year, when his son was out of town, was scooped by the St. Petersburg Times. It was confirmed by the subsequently fired Stanton following publication in the same paper that also condemns the invasion of privacy.

Perhaps we ourselves are responsible for the erosion of the rights of privacy. The Patriot Act is part of the same culture that confuses exposes with real journalism.

Merle F. Allshouse, St. Petersburg

 

Polls at odds 

A majority of Iraqis now say life is bad March 25

I read this short article in last Sunday's Perspective and wondered: What? The ABC News poll queried 2,200. Having just read about another poll of 5,000 Iraqis that said the opposite, I'm confused.

The March 18 report in the Times of London on a British opinion poll said in part:

"Most Iraqis believe life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein."

"The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week."

"Only 27 percent think there is a civil war in Iraq, compared with 61 percent who do not, according to the survey carried out last month."

"By a majority of two to one, Iraqis believe military operations now under way will disarm all militias."

This is why we should not put so much emphasis on polls. The polls that count are at the ballot box. Unfortunately, those are influenced by these kinds of polls.

Dennis Roper, Clearwater

 

Danger in drugs 

Child is quieted, forever, by pills March 25, story

I want to thank you for publishing this article. Everyone needs to know the effects that psychotropic drugs have on our children - and that they are being prescribed far too often when it is not warranted.

Parents need to be fully informed as to the side effects and effectiveness of these kinds of drugs that this child was prescribed (by a "professional") and administered by the parents.

There are many safe and effective alternatives to drugs, beginning with a complete physical examination.

Thank you again for publishing the article.

Jill Reichel, Clearwater

[Last modified April 1, 2007, 01:22:49]


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