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Today's Letters: Cap should be extended to government spending

Published April 22, 2007


The money vat: where it all goes April 15, story 

The Times did a good analysis of the local property tax revenues in last Sunday's paper. The inequity that we currently have is a result of not tying local government spending to the Save Our Homes cap. So while the residential property taxes were protected by a 3 percent cap, government spending went on with increases of 4, 5 and 6 percent or more. It doesn't take long, as we have learned, for things to get out of kilter.

I would advocate a change (constitutional, but saleable) to the Save Our Homes cap to 4 percent. Concurrently, we would impose a spending limit on local government of 4 percent (plus, of course, new growth). This would keep things from getting further out of kilter in the future, and place some prudent fiscal constraints on local government.

While this doesn't fix the past sins, it cleans things up moving forward. Fixing past sins at this point can only be accomplished by forcing local governments to shrink a little and be smarter.

Government fiscal economy hasn't been a mandate because our county and cities have been too "fat and happy," and change occurs only in response to crisis. Well, maybe if the state forces our hand, this will be crisis time.

Alan Bomstein, Dunedin


On a spending spree

Thanks for your timely article on The money vat! Our politicians probably didn't have time to read it, because they are so busy dreaming up new ways to spend our money. What in the world are they thinking?

Lissa Dexter, Belleair


What they do best 

The money vat: where it all goes April 15, story

Your article on the recent history of tax revenues in the Tampa Bay area highlights both the source and the obvious solution to the "property tax crisis."

Basically, the crisis is hilarious. Due to an unusual spurt in property values, local governments got a huge, unpredicted surge in revenue. As your charts show, the local governments got about a 100 percent increase in income in the seven years following 2000, or a roughly 10-percent-compounded annual increase. They did what governments do best and found a way to spend it.

As a recent front-page study in USA Today highlighted, nationally government employees now have substantially higher pay, higher benefits, more generous and inflation-indexed pensions than private workers. The Florida public trough is rich.

The only answer to the present "crisis of too much revenue to the governments" is to drop rates to produce revenue levels adjusted only for inflation and population, from a 2000 base. To prevent a repeat of this fiasco, a cap on future increases tied to inflation and population is needed.

James W. Benefiel, Dunedin


Misleading number 

The money vat: where it all goes April 15, story

With all the trouble citizens are having coming up with enough money for numerous taxes, it is interesting that in this story, you felt it necessary to mention that "the average Pinellas County employee will cost taxpayers an estimated $74,177 in salaries and benefits."

This is very misleading, because if you broke the salaries down into "exempt" (or appointive) positions, upper management positions and "classified" employees, I think you would find that they are quite disproportionate.

As a classified employee, I make nowhere close to this figure, and as a citizen of both Pinellas County and Clearwater, I pay my fair share of taxes also. So before turning the average taxpayer, myself included, against county employees because of exorbitant salaries, you need to realize that many of the classified employees are struggling just like everyone else, and local government isn't "taking care of its own".

James Devine, Clearwater


We can't continue

I moved from New Jersey to Tampa Bay in 1975 because the New Jersey property taxes were going through the roof, and I became tired of more taxes without seeing any living improvements. I knew I would be working cheap here because there weren't any unions, but I also knew housing was cheaper and the taxes were low.

So after more than 30 years it's deja vu, and what's worse, the wages haven't kept up with the expenses. At least in New Jersey, I always had savings left over after expenses.

Your article about the bloated budgets of our local governments was perfect. It's insanity to think we can go on like this. I firmly believe and support the raise in sales tax and eliminating property taxes.

Daniel Orsello, Tampa


Remember the dream 

Shades of black April 15, Perspective story

From this article I get the feeling that many of the attitudes expressed by the black people about Barack Obama are questioning his "mental blackness" or lack thereof. They want him to be a "political black brother" not a man who happens to have black heritage.

But it seems that many of us may be judging him by the content of his character and not his "blackness." Could it be that perhaps what Martin Luther King Jr. had so sincerely prayed for, suffered for and died for is finally being achieved? Isn't it great progress that Obama is seen as a good man with ideas, without the race of black or white strongly attached to him?

It seems that many small steps may have finally created a large leap toward MLK's dream.

Marianne Bradley, Palm Harbor


Jackie Robinson Day

Baseball diversity

Major League Baseball did a wonderful job last weekend promoting Jackie Robinson's contribution not only to baseball, but also to American's acceptance of diversity in society. One negative theme discussed has been how baseball can reverse the decline of the number of African-American athletes in the major leagues over the past two decades.

I don't think we are looking at the whole picture. Though I don't have any statistics to back this assumption, I think the increased numbers of Latin and Asian players have basically replaced a large percentage of the American white and black players on the rosters. I think the percentage of American- born players as a whole has decreased. Baseball has become international in the truest sense of the word.

Jackie Robinson fought hard to open baseball to all cultures - not just for African-Americans. And I think he would be very proud of what he has accomplished!

Jim Mullen, Tampa


Sounds true 

Black critics of Imus are hypocrites April 15, Bill Maxwell column

I generally approach Bill Maxwell's commentaries as most viewed Bjork's infamous swan attire at the Oscars: ridiculously absurd yet I can't keep from looking.

But his take on black America and Don Imus' comments rang surprisingly true with me. As a white teen in the early '90s with plenty of black friends, I affectionately called them "niggas" and they referred to me as "cracka," and we didn't think twice.

I couldn't get away with that now. In hindsight, perhaps my participation in race labeling has encouraged the disconnect that still exists between blacks and whites today.

J.C. Ford, New Port Richey


A win for civility

Setting the obvious racist and sexist issues aside, Don Imus' banishment from the public airwaves (like Howard Stern's before him) represents a triumph of manners over incivility. Perhaps there is hope for our society after all.

Lou Kirschbaum, Largo


Dangerous drivel 

For Bush, critical signs are everywhere April 15, Gene Weingarten column

Shame on the St. Petersburg Times for its gratuitous hatemongering via Gene Weingarten's column last Sunday. That column spewed hate in nearly line, not even sparing Laura Bush.

You may rationalize that Weingarten writes for the Washington Post, but this column clearly creates an atmosphere in which the assassination of President Bush would be justified. Perhaps you missed it (or didn't care). Note Weingarten's reference to "with any sort of luck, we're going to see the wrathful, purifying fire of a justly outraged God." That is well beyond normal journalist standards (if you have any). Have you no shame?

This is the kind of drivel that would be featured on a Klu Klux Klan poster. Speak no more of Don Imus and rappers. And please, no editorials about the loss of civility in our political debate.

Bill Northrop, North Redington Beach

[Last modified April 21, 2007, 19:48:21]

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