Today's Letters: Let everyone share the pain of budget cuts

Published September 6, 2007

Sides gird for Florida budget fight Sept. 4, story

If this year's state revenue crunch is to be the first in a long string of cuts, a prudent approach would be to cut every line item by an equal percentage this year. Next year require every program to use zero-based budgeting, justifying the existence of the program as if it were being authorized for the first time, with a cost-benefit analysis.

This approach gives all concerned an extra year to gather the numbers, sharpen their pencils and prepare their cases for continued existence. After that, if a favorite program gets cut, it is because it is not serving the people, or enough people, to justify its continued existence.

There is already too much pork and pandering to special interests. If the cuts are not shared equally, we the people have no way of knowing why some programs were spared while others are cut to the bone. At least an across-the-board cut would convince us that everyone is sharing the pain.

Willi Rudowsky, St. Petersburg

Sides gird for Florida budget fightSept. 4, story

Lawmakers shouldbe taxing services

There is, perhaps, $17-billion of untaxed revenue available to Florida which is uncollected and provides a legal subsidy to those who can most afford to pay it - and should!

Think of this: The largest companies, Wal-Mart, Macy's, Target, Publix, all spend millions on advertising, which is free of taxation. The richest people, banks and retailers hire lawyers to find ways of minimizing their taxes, and these legal fees are free of taxes. The wealthy spend millions to hire the services of accounting firms to keep straight their many sources of revenue, and all of these services are free of taxes.

The poor and the less-well-paid citizens have no need for advertising. They don't often use lawyers because lawyers require cases with "deep pockets." They don't use accountants because their wages are taxed at the source and they don't need nor can afford CPAs.

This solution seems so simple and so fair to all concerned that it is a tragedy that it is not already in place. It was enacted some years ago, but the weak-kneed Legislature revoked it after six months because they caved in to the monied people who threatened to turn off the political contributions. Come on, politicians, be gutsy not wimpy! Be progressive not retrogressive!

John Christy Clement, Tierra Verde

Budget cuts hit home Sept. 4, letter

Live within means

Enough with the scare tactics already! Every time I pick up a newspaper these days there is some municipal department head or elected official threatening to cut some essential service or fire some workers if voters approve the superhomestead amendment.

Those same people were predicting doom and gloom during the January state legislative session. The fact that lawmakers reduced property taxes slightly and are giving voters the choice of further reducing their tax burden should have taken place years ago.

Had previous legislatures reduced the public trough, governments would have learned to live on less. Had these free-spending local officials, who are now saying cut this and trim that, been living within their means to begin with, the reduced income would not be so painful.

Since 2002, my property taxes have increased more than 100 percent and my homeowner's insurance has increased a whooping 125.5 percent, yet my income has not kept pace.

What am I to do? It's simple. Like most other Florida homeowners, I have had to learn to live within my means or move out of state.

When our elected officials stop building monuments to themselves, when the hired help quit building unnecessary projects to enhance resumes and the size and scope of local governments are capped, we will return to the days of budget surpluses and stable tax rates.

Dennis Roper, Clearwater

Fla. tax plan: been thereSept. 3, story

California's no model

I read Alex Leary's article on taxes with great dismay and disappointment. Leary writes about Proposition 13 in California as if it were no big deal and that the state survived despite dire predictions. Unfortunately, he didn't detail even one of the many major detrimental outcomes of that measure.

Before Prop. 13, California had the best schools in the country; now it is among the worst. I was a news reporter in California in the 1990s, and hardly a day went by without a story from the capital on the state's severe financial woes. The revenue was so strangled and demands for services so great that one governor after another was thrown out of office because there was nothing they could do during their tenures to fix the problem. Even the "Governator" discovered the true harshness of the state's fiscal realities once he got in office. Many of his campaign promises were then subsequently dumped once he actually learned about the budget.

Based on my experience in California, the last thing anyone should be doing is using Prop. 13 as an example of how things should be done.

And by the way, the problem in Florida stems from the gross inequity of property tax rates and absurd assessment policies like "highest and best use." Unfortunately the proposed superhomestead exemption, if passed in January, will do nothing to change that.

Bob Lasher, Clearwater

Governor's "drop like a rock" promise on taxes

Funds for a feast

I don't understand all the whining about property taxes. Why, with the grand reduction of $65 that I'm getting this year, I'll be able to buy a Mickie-D's quarter-pounder with cheese and a small fries each and every month. If I skip a month, I can even take my wife with me the next month.

Or maybe I should use the "drop like a rock" tax savings to offset the near doubling of my property insurance this year - another promise that appears to be unfulfilled.

If I could just sell this place for anything near the appraised value, why, I could be out of the house by the weekend and out of the state shortly thereafter. But that's the same sort of pipe dream as the tax-relief fantasy.

David F. Siemens, St. Petersburg

Cash in on casinos

I recently went to the Seminole casino in Tampa on a Sunday. I could not believe how crowded it was by late morning, and by late afternoon you could hardly find a slot machine to play. People were actually hovering over machines waiting for a player to stop playing so they could sit down at a machine.

If Florida would only legalize gambling and open casinos in select areas, that revenue could be benefiting the state. Come on, Florida, get on the ball and wise up. People are going to gamble whether it is at an Indian casino or a casino out of the state. Why not let that money stay here and let us prosper from it?

The argument that it will cause crime is just a ploy that people use who do not believe in gambling. Crime is already quite high here in Florida. If you don't believe in gambling, whether it is because of a religious belief or just a personal belief, then don't gamble, but don't decide what is best for me.

Come on, Floridians, let's get with the program. Florida should be bringing in the dollars that we are spending at the reservations or in other states that have gambling casinos.

Marie Everhart, Hudson

Rudy's economics Aug. 31, letter

Tax cuts add up

Perhaps the letter writer can explain to me, a middle class "worker bee," how the federal government had a record-breaking year in 2006 for tax revenue? Did she stop to think that with more money the American taxpayer can afford to invest or save for the future?

And what about corporate profits? With lower taxes, corporations have the money to expand and grow their businesses, thus generating even more tax money for the government.

The deficit is being reduced each year the tax cuts remain in place. I suggest she run the numbers before stating that it will not be reduced until our great-grandchildren are the ones paying taxes.

Barbara Archer, Treasure Island

Lio Sept. 5

Getting even at last

For years, Lucy Van Pelt has gotten the best of Charlie Brown with the old football trick. Now that Charles Schulz has passed on and the strip is in reruns, I thought we'd never see Charlie get the best of Lucy on the classic "good grief" moment.

For all the controversy comic artist Mark Tatulli has endured with his character Lio and his exploits with monsters and the like, I've never felt more relieved, vindicated and just plain flat-out happy than with Wednesday's comic where Charlie Brown gets the best of Lucy with the aid of Lio's ingenuity.

Now if only Rat of Pearls Before Swine fame would put Bucky from Get Fuzzy in his place ...

John Fontana, Palm Harbor