Governor knifes record sum out of budget | May 27
Veto of health test shortsighted
Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed funding for statewide public health support services that would add testing for severe combined immune deficiency (SCID) to the existing newborn screening program that tests all infants for genetic diseases. This was a foolish and shortsighted decision. Considerable effort and deliberations led to the passage of the bill.
The new molecular-based technology to diagnosis SCID from a single drop of blood has only recently become available. In states such as Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New York and California, it has already been shown that testing can be easily implemented and is highly sensitive in identifying infants at risk. Treatment in the form of transplantation cures the condition but late diagnosis is uniformly fatal due to overwhelming infections.
Adding this test was unanimously approved by Florida's Newborn Screening Advisory Board based on the test's excellent cost-benefit ratio. In short, testing saves lives and money. We have to assume the governor was not aware of this when he vetoed this legislation.
Dr. John W. Sleasman, St. Petersburg
Governor knifes record sum out of budget May 27
Scott is no friend of schools
When Gov. Rick Scott announced his budget proposal in February, the word "education" was notably absent from the political event, and his budget proposal called for slashing already underfunded public schools by more than 10 percent.
The education budget approved by the Legislature did not cut as deeply as the governor recommended, but it was almost as irresponsible. Teachers and other school employees will lose their jobs, programs will be drastically cut, in some places school days shortened and schools closed. Classrooms cannot be protected from these decisions.
At his political event Thursday announcing his state budget line-item vetoes, the governor made a big show of saying he wanted to put money back in the schools' budget. That would be laughable if it were not so frustrating. It is meaningless since it would require the unlikely occurrence of another session and a new appropriations bill. It was a politically expedient message for a governor with plummeting poll numbers. It was a cruel suggestion for school employees who face layoffs and furloughs and for children who attend Florida's inadequately funded school systems.
This Legislature handed out more than $300 million in tax cuts while the education budget was slashed. The governor lobbied hard for these tax cuts, but didn't lift a finger to prevent the real harm that will be caused by cuts in education and health and human services.
Andy Ford, Florida Education Association president, Tallahassee
Lejeune's actions to fix contamination unclear | May 22
Incredible. So the officials' excuse for not cleaning up the environmental disaster site that is Camp Lejeune is that "lack of records doesn't mean it didn't happen."
Try telling the IRS that not having your returns doesn't mean that you didn't file it. Or that not having a tag on your car doesn't mean you didn't register it. Would you want a crooked contractor to be able to keep your money and say, "Just because there's no completed inspection certificate doesn't mean I didn't do the work"?
The Lejeune officials' argument is totally specious and ridiculous. How stupid do they think we are?
Nona Reppy, Palm Harbor
Unpopularity is a good thing | May 27 letter
Workers are not parasites
On Friday, a letter writer called government employees "parasites" and praised Gov. Rick Scott for minimizing the infestation in Florida. I would like to ask the letter writer to which government employees he refers to.
The unknown soldiers who put at risk their lives for 24 hours a day to protect American freedom? The border patrollers who contain the drug traffickers? The scientists of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers For Disease Control who have dedicated their lives to conquer the most lethal world diseases, and see their effort undermined by nearsighted politicians? The physicians of the Veterans Affairs Department who have organized a geriatric network that is the envy of the Free World? The park rangers and the Environmental Protection Agency employees whose responsibility is to preserve our national treasures?
If these are parasites, what would he call the Wall Street tycoons who have jeopardized the livelihood of millions of Americans? The health insurance executives who thrive on denying necessary medical care? Or our own governor who masterminded the biggest financial fraud in Medicare history?
Lodovico Balducci, Tampa
State DROP program
End retirement scheme
It is time for Florida to stop the so-called DROP program for members of the state pension plan. This form of "golden parachute" is an abuse of taxpayer dollars.
Allowing state, county and city employees to retire and re-enter the system under the "deferred retirement option program" is wasting millions of dollars that could be poured back into education, county services, etc.
The DROP program is also preventing new and energetic teachers from getting into the system. The high-salaried educator stays on, gets paid and also receives an annuity contribution.
This double-dipping is crippling our children and our system. Stop the drop program, let people retire and open the doors for new, lower-paid employees who can begin their careers and make their mark.
Bob Martin, Palm Harbor
Debt ceiling shouldn't be held hostage May 23 editorial
Of course the debt ceiling should be held hostage. There is almost universal agreement that this nation and perhaps the entire world of nations are headed for an historic financial collapse. What we saw in 2008 was nothing compared to what is coming if the world doesn't get its financial house in order. European nations are postponing default every few months, and the U.S. looks like it does not have the intestinal fortitude to attempt to solve its long-term fiscal problems.
I say we need to use the U.S. debt default scenario to either accomplish meaningful reform in this country or, if that cannot be done, to create a minishock to the world's financial system that will act as a wakeup call. We have to hit rock bottom before everyone will realize that we are in some serious trouble. Stay firm on the debt ceiling. Bring on the consequences, and let's work through them.
Jim Nannen, St. Petersburg