School leaders look for tax hike | Nov. 19
Raise cigarette tax to aid budget
State funding has been depleted and we do need to find alternative ways to raise revenue. Increasing the tax on cigarettes would be a good place to start.
Presently, Florida spends an estimated $1.2-billion on smoking-related illnesses and only takes in $427-million in cigarette taxes. Raising the tobacco tax by $1 per pack will generate approximately $1-billion annually, which would be a tremendous help to our state's budget deficit.
The District of Columbia and 43 states have raised their cigarette tax rates more than 75 times since January 2002, more than doubling the national average cigarette tax from 43 cents to $1.14 per pack. Florida last raised its cigarette taxes in 1990. Our state currently ranks 46th in the nation, with taxes at 34 cents per pack.
In addition to helping the budget, raising cigarette taxes is a proven way to keep kids from beginning to smoke and gives current smokers another incentive to quit. Not a bad starting point if you ask me.
William R. Gower Jr., Ph.D., Seffner
A new path for Republicans
I have felt for a long time that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious right and antiabortion contingent. This pandering to the so-called conservative base is a recipe for disaster, as the last election results show.
To become relevant again, the party must subscribe to the following:
• If you are religious, keep it to yourself and support the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Religious fervor alienates people who may not share your faith.
• Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land. Stop wasting precious time and resources trying to overturn it. This issue is no longer relevant to the majority of voters and alienates people, especially women.
• Return to the basic principles of smaller government, lower taxes and reduced spending. Republicans must show the public that they are better managers of public dollars by actually carrying out these principles and not just making speeches about them. The $10-trillion debt of the Bush administration is a black mark for Republicans and must be repudiated.
• Appeal to the entrepreneurial spirit of all Americans, including blacks, Latinos, Asians and new immigrants regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
• Advocate economic nationalism and support American businesses and goods and services produced here.
Unless the Republican Party moves more towards these changes, it will continue to be deemed irrelevant by voters.
Steve Richards, Tarpon Springs
IRA rules need changing
With Washington in the process of giving away billions of dollars, there should be a pause to enact relief for those retirees who have an IRA retirement plan. The current law requires retired IRA owners to withdraw a certain amount each year based on a fixed formula — even though the economy is not the same every year.
IRA investments have lost 30-35 percent of their value, and yet the IRA withdrawal requirement still applies. Congress should revise this requirement and allow a retired IRA owner to waive the withdrawal requirement several times during their retirement years to account for IRA losses.
This is important because retirees should have the financial freedom to conserve their savings so they do not become a burden upon their families or the government.
Roger Wilson, Seminole
Try a vegetarian feast
Barack Obama has risen from humble beginnings to the power of the presidency. But every one of us has the presidential power to pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving.
Here are some reasons to skip the turkey this Thanksgiving:
• You are what you eat. Who wants to be a "butterball"?
• You won't have to call the Poultry Hotline to keep your family alive.
• You won't sweat the environment and food resources devastation guilt trip.
• You won't spend a sleepless night wondering how the turkey lived and died.
• Your body will appreciate a holiday from saturated fat, cholesterol and hormones.
My family's Thanksgiving dinner will include a "tofurky," lentil roast, mashed potatoes, corn stuffing, stuffed squash, chestnut soup, candied yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and carrot cake. An Internet search on vegetarian Thanksgiving got us lots of recipes and other information.
Sean Tyler, St. Petersburg
Make it a 'Buy Nothing Day'
If you liked the $700-billion bank bailout and the $25-billion Detroit bailout, you'll also enjoy the day after Thanksgiving. That's the day millions of Americans are encouraged to run to malls and big-box stores to show enthusiasm for Christmas by buying stuff they can't afford.
There's an alternative: It's a growing custom called "Buy Nothing Day." The idea is that instead of going into debt because you've been told to, you can take a day off. Take your kids for a walk, clean out the excess stuff you already have, read a good book or work on your house. And ponder the fact that Jesus was not born in a shopping mall during a sale.
Tom Butler, Tallahassee
World in a snap | Nov. 21
We are all witnessing the tossing of billions of dollars into corporate maws and reporting of the woes this failing economy is wreaking on individuals and families.
However, as a world community, the juxtaposition of the two photographs on the Daily Briefing page showing a starving Haitian child and the opening of a Dubai luxury hotel should serve to readjust our concept of where bailouts are really needed.
Gerard Meyn, Dunnellon
South Florida gets a break on its electric bills Nov. 18
No to long-term TECO deal
According to this article, Florida Power & Light is lowering electric rates 1.4 percent because natural gas prices are falling. Tampa Electric is raising rates 12 percent now and would love additional rate hikes in May. That's because TECO uses coal for more than 50 percent of its generation.
So why would the city of Tampa want to lock itself into a 25- to 30-year franchise agreement when customers in South Florida are getting rate reductions? A much better idea would be to limit the franchise agreement to 10 years.
A report from Navigant Consulting says that solar photovoltaic cells have the potential to produce 200 gigawatts of power in Florida by 2020. Offshore wind is capable of producing more than 150,000 gigawatts by 2020. That means these cleaner, renewable energy sources are indeed viable alternatives to meet our energy needs. As these technologies are developed, the costs will go down.
As a TECO customer, I want our local governments to be sure we will not be paying more when clean energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuels.
Warren Clark, Tampa