Sunday, December 10, 2017
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: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trump’s risky move

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough County’s Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasn’t enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, it’s looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the city’s dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17