Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade to pay for tax cuts that tilt toward businesses and the wealthy. In ways both big and small, the fallout would be felt throughout the region and the state in ways that would hurt local communities, families and the cultural and political fabric of public life. Among the many provisions that should be rejected:

• Softening the ban on churches and charities engaging in politics. The House bill follows through on President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to overhaul the Johnson Amendment and let religious leaders and nonprofits endorse political candidates. The nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation calculates the change could mean $1.7 billion a year now contributed to political committees could be steered to churches instead. That is absolutely the wrong direction, and churches and charities should be institutions that bring people together rather than further divide them into political camps.

As the Tampa Bay Times’ Tracey McManus reports, the Church of Scientology could use the change to further exert its destructive influence in Clearwater and Pinellas County. Scientology, which owns more than $200 million in property in Clearwater, does not need additional levers to pull. This is one of the many examples of how Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, voted against the interests of this community when he voted for the House tax cuts.

If Congress really wants churches and charities to engage in endorsing political candidates, it should revoke the tax exemption for those groups.

• Eliminating tax-exempt bonds to build or renovate stadiums. As the Times’ Steve Contorno reports, that could add millions to the cost of a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. It also would make it more expensive to improve existing facilities such as Raymond James Stadium and spring training facilities that stimulate the local economy. The Joint Committee on Taxation projects eliminating the exemption would save the federal government $200 million over the next decade, but local taxpayers would wind up covering those costs one way or another.

This provision in the House bill makes for a good sound bite, but it’s shortsighted. It would make it more difficult for Tampa Bay to protect its investments in publicly owned stadiums, and it would make it even harder to keep Major League Baseball in the region.

• Eliminating private activity bonds. Eliminating private activity bonds would increase the cost of borrowing money for big infrastructure projects for community amenities such as airports, colleges and universities, ports and nonprofit hospitals. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates eliminating these bonds would save the federal government nearly $39 billion over 10 years.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, a member of the conference committee resolving the differences between the House and Senate bills, says this change would add $263 million to Tampa International Airport’s plan to use these bonds for construction projects. Now bonds are expected to be issued soon to lock in the tax exemption. Adding such costs to important public works projects that benefit an entire community in order to lower the cost of tax cuts would be a mistake.

• Eliminating or reducing tax credits. Affordable housing tax credits, historic preservation tax credits and others are all on the table. As Castor points out, the Hillsborough County Housing Finance Authority has financed more than 5,000 rental units in Tampa and the county using affordable housing tax credits. Historic preservation tax credits were used to help finance the renovation of Tampa’s former federal courthouse. Metropolitan Ministries used the New Market Tax Credit to help redevelop a blighted area and create a large facility for feeding and helping homeless families. None of these tax credits are worth sacrificing to help pay for tax cuts for big businesses and the wealthy.

   
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Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18