Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida troopers need more money

Gov. Rick Scott loves to compare Florida to Texas, especially when economic reports show the Sunshine State running ahead of the Lone Star State. But there's one area where "Don't mess with Texas'' reigns supreme: pay for state troopers. While the Florida Legislature's decision to provide a 5 percent pay increase for law enforcement in the proposed 2017-18 state budget is a good step forward, state troopers are woefully underpaid compared to their counterparts in Texas and elsewhere. This is a safety issue for Floridians as well as a fairness issue for troopers, whose starting pay of less than $34,000 a year is not nearly enough for putting their lives on the line and helping keep everyone else safe.

The Times' Jeremy Wallace reported that since 2010 the Florida Highway Patrol has lost nearly 1,000 troopers to retirement or resignation, almost half the size of the current workforce. The Florida Highway Patrol director, Col. Gene Spaulding, told the Times the agency had 240 vacancies this spring and a current state trooper class less than half the usual size. The effect of the smaller patrol is clear. The number of speeding tickets decreased by 22 percent from 2011 to 2016 even though Florida now has a million more licensed drivers. The number of traffic citations also fell by 27 percent. Maybe people just drove safer? During that same time period, the number of crashes jumped from 229,000 to 395,000. Fewer troopers create more dangerous roads.

It doesn't take a full-blown investigation to uncover a big reason why this is happening: money. At $33,977, the starting pay for a state trooper in Florida falls well below other southern states, including Texas ($73,000), Louisiana ($47,000), Alabama ($39,000) and Mississippi ($38,000). Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, made it a top priority to finally get raises for law enforcement officers and other state employees. But even with the 5 percent increase for law enforcement in the state's proposed $82.4 billion budget, starting pay still would lag behind these states at about $36,000. The nation's third-largest state can do better.

Mark Puckett, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, recommended in January that the state boost starting salaries up $10,000. That may be the right approach, and the Legislature should continue to provide significant annual pay increases for state troopers who are paid so little to do so much. That would help reduce turnover rates, fill vacancies and get Florida's state troopers the pay they deserve.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18