For a fairer state sales tax | Dec. 28
Don't batter consumers with more tax
The St. Petersburg Times advocates imposition of sales taxes on Internet purchases. That would result in extracting more money from citizens' shrinking funds and transferring it to local and state government where it would be spent by elected politicians. Tight economic times justify this extraction and transfer, the Times declares.
You declare that not taxing Internet sales penalizes "consumers who may not shop on the Internet." That is disingenuous. Those people are not barred — thus not penalized — from doing so. This is a free choice they make.
Moreover, citizens are suffering tough times, too — especially people struggling to survive on fixed and low incomes in Florida's increasingly expensive economic environment. Clearly, the Times advocates throwing those citizens under the bus by further reducing their modest spendable funds. That position is unconscionable!
I will vote against any politician who approves taxing Internet sales. Leave things as they are.
Anthony J. Wickel, Clearwater
Examine all exemptions
It is interesting to see this information, but why don't you do the same comparison with the myriad sales tax exemptions and how much they are costing the state? Why is it that the purchases made by Floridians get this type of scrutiny while I have never seen a breakdown of each sales tax exemption and the amount of revenue that could be collected?
Give us the actual numbers of how much revenue the state has given up with the sales tax exemptions and then name the groups that benefit from those exemptions. I believe you will find that the majority of the people who benefit from exemptions are not the average Floridians who are simply trying to stretch their meager dollars from their minimum wage jobs as far as they can go.
Catherine Matthies, Spring Hill
There's a better way
The Times wants Florida to join the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement to collect sales tax on out-of-state Internet transactions. There is nothing "streamlined" about the 143 pages of this agreement. Big Internet sellers, with their large accounting departments, may find compliance easy enough, but the stay-at-home mom who sells a few things on eBay will find it impossibly burdensome.
The answer is obvious. When a visitor from Ohio or New York buys something in Florida, the tax is not sent back to Ohio or New York. If I visit Georgia, any sales tax I pay there is not returned to Florida. It doesn't matter where the buyer lives; it matters where the seller is located. Allow sellers to collect tax only for the state where they are located. This concept is so simple that I wonder at the true motivation of those who advocate a complex system that would require sellers to send sales tax to as many as 45 states. Could this be just another attempt on the part of big business to eliminate even the smallest competitor?
Jo Gaston, Tampa
Other areas for fairness
I agree that more could be done to collect sales tax on Internet sales, but what about the other loopholes in the law? Why do I pay tax on a lawn mower, but not on a lawn service? How about legal fees or architectural services?
If we are going to run this state on sales and property tax, then everything except food and medicine should be taxed.
If you want to talk about an unfair tax, let's talk about the property tax. It's a bad joke. New people coming to Florida and buying a home are punished with a maximum tax, double or triple that of their neighbors. Now is that fair?
Thomas J. Travis, Dunedin
Let government cut back
Your current series regarding lack of sales tax on Internet sales is ill-timed with the country in the deepest recession in many decades. Why try to make consumers pay more taxes when we have lost more than 2-million jobs and are probably going to lose another million in the coming months?
Why not look at bloated state government, which needs to raise more and more taxes to compensate for its overhead expense? Why begrudge the poor, battered consumer who looks anywhere possible to save a few dollars in these difficult times?
How about taking up causes more beneficial to ordinary people: national health care, term limits on congressmen, better pay for teachers and many more as you have fostered in the past.
John Deegan, Clearwater
Pull back from war | Dec. 31, editorial
Negotiations are only path to Mideast peace
I agree with your editorial that Israel should cease its offensive and work to create a permanent cease-fire. The current genocide of starving and deprived Palestinians in Gaza constitutes "war crimes" in international law and seriously jeopardizes any chances for final peace negotiations. Israel is further isolating itself internationally as world opinion rallies for the Palestinians.
If Israel's goal is to stop Hamas' rocket attacks into southern Israel, its actions are counterproductive. Hamas and Palestinian defiance has been strengthened. Israel is repeating the mistakes of the July 2006 war in Lebanon, where its goal was to weaken and destroy Hezbollah. The opposite occurred while more than 1,000 civilians were killed, nearly 10,000 wounded and neighborhoods and infrastructure were decimated. The best way to stop the rocket attacks into southern Israel is through a negotiated cease-fire. It worked for six months prior to November when Israel violated the cease-fire. It also worked for one whole year in 2005 prior to the Palestinian elections.
It is time for all Americans, Jews, Arabs, Christians, African-Americans and others to demand that Barack Obama and the new administration and Congress exercise strong leadership to end the legacy of war in the Middle East and to pursue negotiations that enforce international law and human rights. That is the only path that can lead to true peace and security for all peoples in the region.
Pilar Saad, Tampa
Pull back from war | Dec. 31, editorial
It's about Israel's existence
Fighting in the Middle East has never been about settlements, the status of Jerusalem, borders or anything else. Nor are there "conflicts" as stated in the Times editorial. There is only one conflict and that is about Israel's right to exist.
In 1947 when a U.N. mandate partitioned the land of Palestine, only Jews declared a state and Israel was born. No state was declared for or by the people who would come to be known as Palestinians. To have done so would have meant that the nations of Jordan, Syria and Egypt cede land they controlled to their fellow Arabs and by recognizing the borders of a new Palestinian state tacitly recognize the borders of a new Israeli state.
Instead Israel was attacked with the intent of destroying it. Thus was created the refugee crisis, when another state could have been born.
The solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict is one of simple recognition of Israel's right to exist. Some Arab nations, once enemies of Israel, recognize this reality and benefit from it. Until they all do, conflict will ensue and innocent people, both Arabs and Jews who simply want a safe and secure life, will suffer.
Len Keller, Seminole
Respect works both ways
Israel pulls out of Gaza, leaving intact infrastructure as a hope for a betterment for the inhabitants. Now Hamas is sending missiles crashing into Israel. Did any Muslim leaders, either here or abroad, condemn this? Of course not.
Yet, after countless missile volleys, the Israelis are fed up, and show their superior firepower. And what happens? Muslim leaders, here and abroad, are outraged. It seems the Muslim community only gets upset, only protests, when things aren't going to their liking. You dare to respond to an assault, you print a cartoon, then expect riots.
It's about time someone tell the Muslim community that they can no longer expect other countries to bend to their customs and mores. There is more than one religion, more customs and ways of doing things than just their way. Respect and rights are a two-way street.
Walter Staggs, St. Petersburg
Stand up to Israel | Dec. 31, letter
Looking for answers
This letter raises some valid points. However, I would appreciate the answers to a few questions:
If the letter writer is living in a country that is the sworn enemy of Israel, what makes him think he receives the truth from that country's government?
Why do his neighbors cheer when Hamas fires an unaimed rocket at Israel and kills innocent Israeli civilians and yet scream if a so-called civilian is killed when Israel takes out the rocket launcher who is hiding within a group of so-called civilians?
If the so-called civilians are so blameless, why don't they stop the thugs from launching rockets from within their midst?
Walter Hudson, Ruskin
Public servants need help | Dec. 29, commentary
Jeanette Wynn's column expressing the urgency to increase the salaries of state workers demonstrates how clueless one can be after spending 30 years as a union bureaucrat in the state government culture. The entitlement mind-set is painfully apparent.
The "selfless service of our state workers" is certainly not apparent with the 9,000-plus state workers milking the system by collecting full retirement pensions and benefits and at the same time collecting full-time "professional" state worker salaries.
Wynn's list of possible additional revenue sources to fund the increases in state worker salaries and benefits included expanding gambling, raising tobacco and alcohol taxes, and closing the loopholes in sales tax exemptions. For some reason she failed to mention closing the loophole state workers (legislators) created for themselves to game the system, costing the Florida taxpayers an estimated $300-million a year.
Wynn has already made her pitch to grab some of the federal government's fiscal stimulus money. Putting it into increased salaries for state government workers would be "the quickest way for those funds to make their way into the Florida economy."
The Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) was created in 1998 to encourage highly paid long-term employees to retire and give other lesser paid employees an opportunity to advance. It has failed miserably to accomplish this. It should be rescinded. Unfortunately the representatives in a position to change the law are the same ones feeding at the trough. Selfless public servants? Yeah, right.
Dave Loeffert, Dunedin
Double dipping: Ire, but higher | Dec. 28
We're taxpayers, too
As a state employee, I know several well paid higher-up employees who enjoy double dipping. Those of us lower down the ladder have to watch these employees get preferential treatment and keep our mouths shut in fear of this economy giving our management the opportunity to dismiss us. The lower-level employee is not able to move up the ladder due to these staffers being retained — and being rewarded handsomely while doing it.
I and several fellow "peons" would be quite happy to see the double-dipping practice stopped. It's not fair to the taxpayers. And please remember we state employees are taxpayers, too. Not all state employees appreciate hearing or seeing the double-dipping. It makes all of us look bad as we are all "state employees." Please do not label every state employee as someone who is cheating the state out of funds.
You find fault with us but still call us for assistance. Please remember: No matter what, we are always there to help you.
Elyn Stone, Pinellas Park
We are all sinners | Dec. 26, letter
The letter writer claims it is a mainstream belief held by the majority of Christians, Jews and Muslims that extramarital sex is sinful. He doesn't call them mean and bigoted for believing that, yet claims that "meanness" and "bigotry" inspired proponents of the amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage violates moral and religious beliefs codified by many religions around the globe, affecting billions. These beliefs about marriage are deeply held by the "mainstream," fostered by thousands of years of human practice and celebrated in song, literature and art.
Perhaps people don't object to same-sex marriage because they are mean and bigoted, but do so because of the depth of feelings developed through millenniums of human experience. The meanness and bigotry come from those who refuse to understand and tolerate those feelings.
Bob Womack, Crystal River
We are all sinners | Dec. 26, letter
What a wonderful letter from an intelligent and sensitive man. We are too quick to judge and we are entirely too influenced by public opinion.
I don't know how I feel about gay marriage either, but to paint everyone with such a broad brush is unwise and uncharitable. This man is a physician who spends his life trying to save people, and this little reminder of his is more spiritual than medical.
Harriet P. Sherwood, Clearwater