Make sales tax work harder
Once more, the less fortunate are asked to bear the brunt of tough times — cuts in services and in education. Where are the beneficiaries of the sales tax economy?
How about eliminating the special-interest sales tax exemptions? Isn't it time for everything to be part of the sales-tax economy? That means services and especially the least productive and most obnoxious — advertising. Whoops, I stepped on a toe there.
Then, while we're at it, let's introduce some more fairness into the picture and help out our beleaguered retailers by capturing lost sales tax on the increasing volume of Internet sales.
And, finally, it would help everyone to round up the tax to the next highest nickel.
If we're going to be a non-income tax economy to the benefit of the fat cats, let's do it right: Squeeze the sales tax for all it is worth and be fair about it.
S.L. Davis, Oldsmar
Look to our prisons
to provide budget savings
In December, the prison population of Florida topped the 100,000 mark for the first time. We incarcerate a lot of people in this state.
I don't think anyone would disagree that all violent offenders need to be kept away from general society. The same can be said for those in prison for repeated property crimes. If the national average holds true for Florida's prison population, then about 20 percent of Florida prisoners are there for drug offenses. It cost the taxpayers of Florida about $22,000 per year to keep a person in jail.
I would like to suggest to Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Legislature that maybe it's time to consider releasing to house arrest all nonviolent drug offenders in our state. If just half of the 20,000 drug offenders met this criteria for house arrest, the savings would amount to nearly a quarter-billion dollars.
The largest single reason people wind up in prison is simple poverty. The rich rarely go to jail. Look at Bernard Madoff being allowed to stay in his multimillion-dollar apartment instead of being jailed. The justice system needs to be fair for all.
F.M. Younglove, Brandon
Prisons to spend $100,000 on TVs Jan. 19, story
A matter of safety
I am a 27-year employee of the Florida Department of Corrections. I want everyone to know that this outlay of money for televisions is absolutely necessary. If these TVs are not replaced, the safety of my fellow employees and the inmates is at a higher risk.
We have been operating the state's prisons in an unsafe way for years with far too few officers as it is. Now those in Tallahassee want to eliminate those positions that are not now filled. To create situations where the inmates are without these TVs places officers at more risk.
William Thompson, Bayonet Point
Making more inmates
Let's see: Lawmakers cut the budget for schools but they are coming up with funds to build more prisons. I can see where they are coming from: They will need the prisons because they do not care about educating our children.
Not all of us have the means to send our children to private schools. The state should be ashamed of itself. Poor education, poor economy, poor Florida.
R. Quijano, Tampa
The truth about my work to win funding for college | Jan. 16, commentary by House Speaker Ray Sansom
In this column, Ray Sansom said that opinions should be "informed by the facts." He offered not one fact but a lot of self-indulgence.
Certainly he needs a full-time job when he leaves the Legislature. How about getting one honestly? He talks about the state budget process being open. Yet he must be as aware as the rest of us that all kinds of junk and self-serving projects get inserted at the last minute and passed with very little scrutiny.
Sansom is the very type of politician who has caused people to have such a negative view — more and more deservedly — of politicians in general. It is a sad commentary on our government that someone such as Sansom could rise to speaker of the House. Shame on him, shame on his party, shame on our governor, and shame on the electorate of his district.
David A. Cimino, St. Petersburg
$1 state payoff adds up | Jan. 16, story
Government run amok
This story strikes me as one of the most astounding I have read in many years. The state sells personal information from drivers' license records to marketing companies, in violation of federal law, reaps more than $100-million, eventually settles a lawsuit by agreeing to pay $1 to each license holder, and formally denies responsibility.
State Sen. Larcenia Bullard, officially from Miami, but likely from Mars, seems perplexed by the state's payout, while the state pockets some $90-million in ill-gotten gains.
Government run wildly amok is the picture that this peasant derives from this insight into our present royalty's behavior in this matter.
Jim Benefiel, Dunedin
A super bowl of steaming hooey | Jan. 16, Daniel Ruth column
Dan Ruth is right. It has been studied, crunched and analyzed over and over again. The results are: There is no golden goose involved in having a Super Bowl, Final Four or World Series in town, and even less economic benefit to having the teams there in the first place. It's a boondoggle and has always been, so fat cats can make even more profits that never trickle down to benefit the overall community.
And it's shameful if not illegal that supposedly smart elected and unelected officials buy into such nonsense, much less commit taxpayer dollars to such unimportant things. And even if we do get publicity for the community, so what? Better that we got publicity because we were wise enough to spend our tax dollars on education, or infrastructure, or helping the truly needy among us.
Charles Nivens, St. Petersburg
A super bowl of steaming hooey | Jan. 16, Daniel Ruth column
Stadium hooey, too
This column could just as easily have been called: "A waterfront stadium of steaming hooey." Why anyone believes the city of St. Petersburg should mess up its beautiful waterfront, and why the taxpayers should contribute to a $450-million (or more, most likely) stadium to do so, is a mystery.
Our city attorney, John Wolfe, says the Rays have to play in St. Petersburg until 2027. Hold them to their contract. Prove a new stadium will benefit anyone but the team owners, and I may change my thinking, but never to the tune of $450-million.
W. Rudowsky, St. Petersburg