Tourist tax is extended | Dec. 1
Commission takes the long view
In addition to being an attorney and businessman, I have been a docent at the Salvador Dalí Museum for almost 17 years. I applaud the County Commission for making one of the smartest financial decisions it could have in extending the tourist tax to help pay for a construction shortfall in the grand, brilliant new Dalí Museum.
It is astounding to me to see underinformed individuals look at this expenditure as simply a "waste" of $2.5 million. In a time when arts organizations budgets have been slashed due to a decrease in tax-based grants, those same organizations continue to bring money into our community many times over whatever meager financial assistance is left from local, state and federal governments.
As your article clearly points out, the tourist tax is just that: revenues generated by visiting tourists, not through property taxes or sales taxes by locals. It pains me to see the ignorance on display when the tea party members appearing at this hearing continued to mischaracterize the expenditure as coming from residents of Tampa Bay.
This money isn't a gift, it's not charity — it is truly an investment in Tampa Bay. As a longtime docent I've met a tremendous number of visitors to the Dalí Museum who are not only visiting from out of town but from out the of state and frequently from Europe. They stay in our hotels, rent our cars, eat in our restaurants and enjoy our beaches.
Congratulations to our County Commissioners for making the right call in a political climate of financial myopia.
Walter Blenner, Tarpon Springs
Florida roads full of cars
with safety hazards
The state of Florida needs to implement vehicle inspections. Almost daily I see vehicles on the roads missing body panels, mirrors or with parts barely hanging on. These are safety hazards for anyone else driving behind these vehicles.
One station wagon I saw was missing the front left fender and hood. The engine compartment was almost completely exposed. If someone were to have an accident with this car, the engine could become a deadly object. Recently my daughter almost rear-ended a car that didn't have working brake lights or turn signals. I have also seen vehicles without working lights, not to mention the smoke-belching cars and trucks that pollute the entire route they are driving.
A vehicle safety inspection couple with emissions inspections would go a long way to making our roads safer and cleaner and bring in much-needed revenue.
Tim Robinson, St. Petersburg
Unpopular step was the right one | Nov. 29, editorial
Others paid bailout's cost
This editorial left out some critical information. When GM was bailed out and filed bankruptcy, many debts were forgiven. What about the loss of jobs from the companies that got stiffed?
Not bailing out any company, including GM, would simply result in customers buying the product from whomever is left in the market to buy it from. We would no longer buy GM; we'd be buying Ford or some other brand. If five grocery stores are in the area and your favorite one goes under, you buy from the other ones that have hired the people who were let go from the failed company. You don't go hungry.
Ford ran their company right, but is now punished by having to compete with GM, which ran it into the ground. The government does not know how to run itself, let alone a business.
Scott Burton, St. Petersburg
Not so sweet a life
It is a myth that state pensioners are somehow living the sweet life. Most state employees have not had a pay raise in five years, and our pension is based on average salary, times years of service, times a factor (1.6 percent).
In my case, I would be able to retire at age 62 with about 28 years of service. In my final year, my annual salary will be approximately $55,000. Sounds good, doesn't it? However, my annual state retirement pension would drop to $23,400. Subtract from that the full premium cost for family health insurance coverage ($15,500 at present) and my pension will be $7,900 per year, before taxes.
So this is the "generous" Florida pension plan for state employees?
Kent Fast, Tampa
A way out of tax debate: recovery bonds Nov. 29
Borrow, spend all over
The columnists write about taxing earned income above $250,000 at 2001 rates, and leaving lower rates in effect at incomes below that level. This is basically the Obama position.
But they go on to propose giving those "rich" taxpayers government bonds maturing in five years in order to pay them back those extra taxes. The funds collected now would be used to improve our infrastructure.
In other words, let's borrow the money, spend it now, and pay it back in five years. It sounds like what got us to this point to begin with — live beyond your means, and borrow money to do it.
The authors do not address the low capital gains and dividends tax rates; they only speak of earned income. I think a great compromise on that front would be to increase rates on capital gains and dividends to 20 percent (from 15 percent now) for everyone. Also necessary is an across-the-board tax rate increase to help reduce the deficit — say 2 percent in each tax bracket.
Raymond Hetterich, St. Petersburg
Muslims against terror
When our pious politicians crusaded to stop a mosque from being built near ground zero, the story was headline news. Now that the elections are over I find it interesting that suddenly their sanctimonious fervor over building the mosque has gone silent.
What I find even more interesting is the deafening silence over the key role played by the Muslim community in cooperating with the authorities to foil the two most recent terrorist attacks on America. While the acts of a small number of crazed extremists are always front-page news and fuel for political oratory, mention of the invaluable contribution by the peaceful Muslim community that recently led to preventing enormous death and destruction was relegated to one sentence on page 2 of the Times.
Why is it that our flag-waving politicians choose to so adroitly use the press as a megaphone for spewing their anti-Muslim propaganda as opposed to taking the more responsible approach by reminding us that these heinous acts are the work of a small, crazed minority that has literally hijacked one of the world's great religions?
With all their shallow talk about securing the homeland, are the thought processes of these politicians so vacuous as to fail to understand that it is the cooperation of the majority of peace-loving Muslims in this country that is our single greatest weapon in the fight against terrorism?
Arthur R. Polin, M.D., Oldsmar