Sunday, August 19, 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: 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