Thursday, January 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Developers should share road cost burden

As the economy recovers in Pasco County and throughout Tampa Bay, the pressure to provide the roads and services to handle new development will return after years of being tamped down by the recession. The rising cost of accommodating growth in Pasco's southern and western corridors should not be borne exclusively by motorists and property owners paying higher taxes. Instead, the county should devise more equitable financing that would require developers to fairly share the increasing expense of building and maintaining local roads.

Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday got their first look at a proposal to increase the local option gasoline tax and approve an accompanying transportation property tax to raise up to $8 million annually for road construction and maintenance. The debate, which ended with no commission consensus, should have included requiring more contributions from developers as well. It's reasonable to raise the gas tax, but not without more fairly spreading the burdens of paying for growth.

Pasco abandoned uniform transportation impact fees in 2011 in favor of a sliding scale of so-called mobility fees that vary by location within the county. To drive jobs and population growth to the State Road 54/56 and U.S. 19 corridors, the county waives fees for such developments as employment centers and hotels, and assesses less expensive fees for new housing in those locations. The discounts, however, come with an increasing price tag. Road construction costs are up 20 percent over 2011, and planners now say the county will grow faster than projected, with Pasco's population nearly doubling over the next 25 years. To finance its long-term road network, the county said it needs a minimum of $5 million in additional money annually through 2040 and another $3 million a year to better maintain existing and future highways.

State law gives counties the option of increasing their local gasoline tax by up to 5 cents per gallon for road expenses. Twenty-eight of Florida's 67 counties, including Hernando, charge all or a portion of the local tax. Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties do not. A year ago, Pasco commissioners failed to reach the required four votes to increase the gas tax, and only three commissioners voiced strong support for it this week.

Commissioners correctly asked about reducing the geographic areas receiving the fee discount and about using reserves to buy road maintenance equipment. The search for alternatives is smart, but the focus remains too narrow. Local consumers already are underwriting $136 million worth of transportation and economic development expenses over the next 10 years through the renewed Penny for Pasco sales tax. Pasco is smart to look for more revenue to help pay for growth, but the burden should be spread more fairly and not be entirely on the backs of drivers and property owners.

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Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
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...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
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...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
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