Internet sales tax
Fairness should extend to Web
It's time for the Florida Legislature to treat businesses and consumers fairly. For more than a decade, online-only retail giants have enjoyed a special tax deal at the expense of Florida's small businesses like mine, Amber Glen Feed. Unlike the brick-and-mortar retailers with which they compete, online-only retailers are not required to collect and remit state sales taxes.
Big deal? You bet. It means that hometown retailers — everything from hardware shops to bookstores — are at a 6 percent to 8 percent competitive disadvantage right off the bat. Even when Florida-based retailers sell products online, they have to collect and remit sales taxes — while their Internet-only competitors do not! It's both wrong and ridiculous to punish small-business owners for investing in Florida by rewarding their out-of-state competition with special tax consideration at their expense.
It doesn't matter if a product is purchased over the Internet or at a shop on Main Street — a sale is a sale.
At a time when Florida faces tough budget choices, closing the online sales tax loophole is a smarter, better alternative to raising taxes. The nonprofit, nonpartisan Florida TaxWatch has endorsed this pro-jobs solution, and a new study reveals that closing the loophole — through legislation called E-Fairness — would allow Florida to cut the corporate tax rate for all businesses, not just the most politically connected ones.
It's time to close the loophole. It's time for E-Fairness.
Patty Johnson, Pinellas Park
State hired law firm with Scott ties | Nov. 16
Firm's ties raise questions
I cannot understand how our governor continues to abuse his powers to benefit his business cronies and suffers no repercussions. The state has paid $391,000 to the Alston and Bird law firm to defend the new state law that requires public employees to contribute 3 percent of their pay to the state pension fund. The law firm was hired at the urging of the Scott administration, which asked Attorney General Pam Bondi to approve paying the firm hourly rates of $495 an hour, nearly $300 more an hour than what is normally allowed. The extraordinary rate was rationalized by both Bondi and the Scott administration by saying the firm specializes in the kind of litigation that the state is now involved in. Come on!
But there's more. A senior counsel with the law firm, Thomas Scully, is also a general partner in the New York investment firm of Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, the firm that bought the governor's shares in Solantic in June. How cozy! Yet Scott said though he has known Scully for 20 years, he did not know he worked for Alston and Bird. Please! Is this ethical? I think not.
Jane Lomas-Michals, Largo
Millionaires on Capitol Hill: Please tax me more | Nov. 17
We should all pay fair share
In the article, Grover Norquist is quoted as saying, "If you think the government can spend your money better than you can, then by all means, pay more than you owe." Norquist is apparently unaware of the difference between philanthropy and taxes.
Philanthropy is a gift given by choice for the good of others. Income taxes are intended as a fair-share payment to the government, required of all wage earners. Fair shares are based on how much money each individual earns. If the IRS collected taxes on a "pay-whatever-you-want-to" basis, how would we ever deal with the deficit in this country, not to mention Social Security and the national defense? These public-spirited millionaires want a more progressive tax because they know that philanthropy alone is not enough. If this country is to live up to its pledge of a government of, for and by the people, everyone needs to do their fair share. This includes people who have far more than they can use, but who would rather squirrel it away than use it for the good of their country.
Sheila Smith, San Antonio
Student debt might be the next big financial crisis | Nov. 18, commentary
Market should drive tuition
While I tend to agree with University of South Florida Professor Edward Renner on the likelihood of a student debt "bubble" in the very near future, I believe he incorrectly identified the root cause of skyrocketing tuition. The professor blames it solely on a crusade to shrink the federal government in the 1980s. However, there are myriad reasons why college tuition and fees have risen by more than four times the rate of inflation. The primary reason is the availability of easy and cheap money in the form of loans and grants, which serve to eliminate price competition from the higher-education market.
Sure, there are other reasons for the excessive tuition prices, but none are more responsible than the elimination of the free market to hold prices in check.
When government meddled in the mortgage lending industry, the result was toxic mortgages, the bursting of the housing bubble and middle-income earners losing their entire life's savings. If we are serious about addressing the debt load carried by college students, the federal government must get out of the tuition payment industry.
Bob Coston, Clearwater
Keystone XL pipeline
Delay is merely political
The Obama Administration is standing in the way of providing thousands of jobs right now and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the future by deciding to delay the decision to go forward with the Keystone XL pipeline until after the upcoming presidential election, citing environmental concerns. The environmental concerns have been addressed by moving the pipeline to a location away from the Sands Hills region and the Ogallala Aquifer.
The project would have an immediate impact on reducing our dependence on foreign oil and has the potential of eliminating it altogether in the future. He stands in the way because he does not want to lose his constituency provided by the environmental movement. I am an environmental engineer. This project is not a threat to our environment. The biggest threat here is a president who puts his own political future ahead of what's best for this country right now.
Peter L. Kurzban, St. Petersburg