Transportation Trust Fund
Raiding transit fund would kill jobs
The Florida Legislature is struggling with hard choices, such as whether to cut money for schools, health care for the poor or criminal justice and the courts. But one of the worst suggestions is a House scheme to "sweep" $330 million from the already ravaged Transportation Trust Fund, effectively flattening the economy's tires just when it's beginning to move.
The Transportation Trust Fund collects pennies from your gasoline purchases and then responsibly pays for roads, bridges, highways, transit and other transportation needs. As Gov. Rick Scott said while campaigning, "sweeping" is another word for "stealing."
Gas tax collections nationwide are stagnant as people (rightly) move to more fuel-stingy vehicles and avoid casual driving when gasoline prices leap as they have in recent weeks.
So it's bad enough that the trust fund is no longer keeping up with the state's huge transportation needs. In the last five years the fund has suffered a cash loss of $6.5 billion. Raiding it now to pay for other state operations makes no sense.
The $330 million raid is not cutting government spending; it is wiping out private-sector jobs and payrolls. A transportation builders group calculates that removing $330 million from the fund would eliminate 14,000 to 25,000 jobs.
A budget maneuver that eliminates thousands of private-sector jobs does not help the 1 million Floridians looking for work. Nor does it help our state's economy recover faster. Tell your legislators to fight any "sweeping" of the Transportation Trust Fund and lets keep Florida moving out of this recession.
Chris Warren, president, Floridians for Better Transportation, Ocoee
One quiet party | April 10
Spending must be checked
Having a "quiet" Democratic Party in state government is not necessarily a bad thing. While I can see how being the minority may be frustrating, for many years the state has been on a fast track to financial insolvency. Someone has to wake up and tackle the problem.
While making cuts is never popular, the Republicans are not out to "stick it" to anyone; they are working to ensure that spending doesn't go on unchecked and that the state starts to operate within its means.
Though the changes seem shocking at first, they are something that must happen eventually. The end result will be an economically sound government.
Matthew Philbin, Tarpon Springs
Health care reform
It has now been just over a year since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama. I am a pediatrician, and this act is vital to improving access for my patients.
The act is not perfect. Its first year has been fraught with hardships, including debates on funding and its constitutionality. But the first year has also been full of victories, as it has already put into place great provisions for children. It is now illegal to deny coverage of children for pre-existing conditions. It also allows children to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26, placing many healthy young individuals in the insurance pool.
Additionally, it covers preventive care, which will make the difference between a devastating diagnosis and early intervention for treatable illnesses. And coverage can no longer be dropped when a patient becomes ill.
By the time the Affordable Care Act is 4, the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans can look forward to gaining access to Medicaid or the exchange to obtain affordable coverage.
Kathryn Kelly, M.D., St. Petersburg
Electric highway | April 9
Weigh positives, negatives
The Times' photo story on electric cars focused on how long it would take to recoup the cost of higher-priced electric vehicles, but it ignored some potentially negative considerations.
First, there's the large expense of replacing batteries — several thousand dollars. This is true whether it's a hybrid or an all-electric car. Questions also remain about the expected battery life for the various models and how much the average miles per charge decreases as the batteries age.
Ultimately, these factors will significantly affect a vehicle's trade-in or resale value, and could be a deal killer for many middle-class buyers. That's especially true for those who finance cars for 60 or 72 months. And as interest rates inevitably rise, the cost of a loan also will affect the ability to recoup an investment in such an expensive vehicle.
Yes, we'd all like to wave a magic wand and drive cars that get much better mileage and pollute less. But readers need a more complete picture so they can make an informed decision.
Mike Kersmarki, Tampa
Social issues avoided
A recent letter blamed the tea party for opposition to Planned Parenthood. While many prolife conservatives are part of the tea party movement, opposition to abortion is not a tea party issue. In fact, some social issues are assiduously avoided out of respect for those who disagree on such matters.
The tea party has always been about four core issues, promoting: 1) limited, constitutional federal government; 2) self-reliant citizens not dependent on handouts or bailouts; 3) free markets; and 4) responsible federal spending.
The tea party comprises a vast and diverse coalition who agree on these issues and set aside disagreements on others.
Robert L. White, Tampa
Trade accord good for U.S., Colombia | April 11, editorial
A NAFTA rerun?
If there are any similarities between this trade accord with Colombia and the North America Free Trade Agreement, then expect the same results: thousands of small Colombian farmers forced to leave their lands, being unable to compete with U.S. agribusiness; more U.S. industrial jobs lost as they are relocated to Colombian sweatshops; and prosperity for Wall Street investors.
George Craciun, Thonotosassa
Hard choices on the budget | April 10, editorial
Driving down costs
This editorial criticizes Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal for not spending as much on Medicare and Medicaid as current health care costs would require. This is a feature, not a bug. These two government entitlements deluge the health care market with dollars that chase available supplies of medical treatment, bidding up the price. This, combined with the fact that beneficiaries have little incentive to shop for the best prices, put these programs in perilous financial straits and increase costs for those inside and outside of the system.
Ryan's plan offers solutions to both of these problems. Lower overall spending puts brakes on rampant health care inflation, and his voucher system incentivizes beneficiaries to shop for the best deal. Far from being insufficient, Ryan's proposals are just what the doctor ordered.
Matt Curran, Lutz