Saturday, August 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Modest improvements to unneeded tax cut package

The massive tax cut legislation Congress is poised to start voting on today remains terrible public policy. It raises the federal debt by more than $1.4 trillion over the next decade, and it primarily benefits businesses and the wealthy over the poor and middle class. Yet it could have been worse, and Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful effort to improve the child tax credit is one example of how negotiators sanded off some of the roughest edges before the final votes.

Rubio delivered a rare ultimatum last week, telling Senate leaders he would vote against the final tax cut legislation unless the child tax credit was improved. The Florida Republican had failed to persuade the Senate to slightly reduce the cut in the corporate tax rate to make the child tax credit fully refundable, which would have benefited 9 million low-income Americans. Instead, congressional negotiators callously used the savings from the adjustment in the corporate tax rate to help pay for higher tax cuts for the wealthy.

In the end, Rubio did not get everything he wanted — but he got something. The child tax credit, which will be raised from the current $1,000 per child to $2,000 per child, will not be entirely refundable as he first sought. But Rubio’s power play resulted in $1,400 of the credit being refundable, a $300 increase from what had been in the bill. That is not insignificant, and as Rubio tweeted after the deal was made, making 70 percent of the tax credit refundable ‘‘is a solid step toward broader reforms which are both pro-growth and pro-worker. But there is still much more to do in the months and years to come.’’

Other issues that would have harmed Tampa Bay disappeared in the final tax cut legislation the House is expected to approve today. A provision from the House version that would have enabled churches and nonprofits to endorse political candidates was removed. That was particularly important for Pinellas County, where the Church of Scientology already wields too much influence over Clearwater with its large property holdings and sharp elbows.

Various efforts to eliminate certain types of bonds and tax credits also faded away. Private activity bonds, which are used to fund big construction projects at Tampa International Airport, colleges and universities, and nonprofit hospitals are preserved. So are tax-exempt bonds used to build or renovate professional stadiums, an important save as talks heat up next year about building a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. New Markets Tax Credits, which have helped Tampa’s Metropolitan Ministries and other projects aimed at reducing blight, and affordable housing tax credits were saved. So were tax credits for historic preservation, although they will be spread over a longer period. These provisions collectively are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but they help cover the cost of projects that improve the public and cultural life for communities throughout Tampa Bay and the nation.

More broadly, congressional negotiators removed some of the other high-profile, punitive provisions from the final bill. The House’s attempts to tax graduate school tuition waivers and employer-paid tuition were taken out. Teachers also still will be able to take the $250 deduction for personal money they spend on classroom supplies.

Overall, this tax cut package remains unnecessary and too expensive. It won’t come close to paying for itself, and it is based on the flawed theory that tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy trickle down to produce higher wages and lots of jobs for the poor and middle class. But Republicans appear to have the votes to pass the legislation, and the modest silver lining is that Rubio and others made positive changes to take a little of the sting out of it.

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Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18