Thursday, April 19, 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: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the stateís fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the November b...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region wonít make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Floridaís citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nationís health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

St. Petersburg city officials are exploring how to cut down on single-use plastic straws, a commendable effort to make the city even more environmentally minded. But to succeed, City Council members should craft a modest, reasonable restriction that ...
Published: 04/10/18