Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Budget deal a modest step forward

The bipartisan budget deal the U.S. House could vote on as early as today is far from perfect. It doesn't solve long-term problems with more taxes and less spending, resolve the battle over across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, or address the crisis faced by more than 1 million Americans this holiday season who are days away from losing their jobless benefits. But the agreement is a reasonable compromise that buys two years, sets the stage for more negotiation and shaves off the worst of sequestration. It enables Congress to avoid another disastrous government shutdown, and it creates some space for making Washington function again.

Both liberals and conservatives groused about the terms Wednesday, but the agreement is probably the best possible compromise to come from this sharply divided Congress. Announced by the two lead negotiators, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the deal sets 2014 spending at $1.012 trillion, the midpoint between what the opposing parties wanted, while largely holding the line for 2015.

The deal restores $63 billion in domestic spending by replacing some of the sequester cuts with new savings and fees that would be poured back into programs ranging from infrastructure to education to defense. That has to benefit MacDill Air Force Base. It provides the Pentagon and other agencies with billions in new spending, to be paid in part by higher fees on airline passengers and private sector pensions, and by cutting benefits to younger military retirees and new government employees. It also would trim the deficit by $22 billion over the next decade. However modest, these achievements move in the right direction.

The measure doesn't come close to a far-reaching deal on revenue and on structural changes to entitlements that are needed to bring America's fiscal house in order. But that wasn't going to happen now, anyway. This agreement at least gives the agencies some short-term financial certainty, prevents arbitrary spending cuts from derailing the economic recovery and creates bargaining space for Congress and the president to seize upon in the new year. The private sector might also loosen up on hiring and spending once some predictability is brought to the political process.

Congress still needs to extend benefits for workers unemployed longer than 26 weeks, which are set to expire Dec. 28, ceasing aid to 1.3 million immediately and throwing another 800,000 off the rolls in the coming months. That aid is essential for the long-term unemployed to claw their way back into the workforce. Ending the billions of dollars it churns through the economy could shave a quarter percentage point off the nation's economic output next year.

Tea party favorites such as Republican Sen. Marco Rubio oppose the agreement, but they offer nothing constructive in its place. This deal at least moves the ball and clears the way for Congress to address comprehensive fiscal reform and other vital, unattended business from immigration to farm policy. Pragmatic conservatives such as Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, need to move this consensus approach; it's the only way to break through the budget impasse and begin the longer road to fiscal reform. Congress should approve this agreement as a reasonable step forward — and then revisit the extension of unemployment compensation to jobless workers hit hardest by the recession.

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Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18