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State budget fix shouldn't target smokers

Crist offers fiscal fixes | Nov. 25, story

All should pay, not just smokers

I am fed up with hearing year after year about budget shortfalls. Billions have been generated from the lottery, sales taxes, tourist taxes and every other kind of tax, yet our state legislators cry poor every fiscal year.

I don't even want to hear about a 50-cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes. Why should only one commodity not used by everyone be taxed to supplement the budget?

If people want to smoke, that is their business. And don't give me this song and dance again about the cost to treat smoking-related illnesses. The ludicrous tobacco lawsuits did nothing to drive down the cost of care or deter new smokers, but it sure drove up the price on a pack of cigarettes. Leave the smokers alone!

If an increase of any kind of tax is necessary, then raise the sales tax by a penny so that everyone can contribute to this budget shortfall since it is the responsibility of everyone who resides in this state. If our legislators can ever manage the state budget, then the penny increase can be withdrawn.

In any case, Gov. Charlie Crist and the rest of our elected representatives should do what is fair to all in bailing the state out of this budget crisis.

Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City

Go for higher tax

The article mentions that Gov. Charlie Crist is exploring options to increase the state's revenue, including a cigarette tax increase of 50 cents a pack. While I'm glad that the governor is open to considering this, it's important to stress that the cigarette tax increase should be at least $1 to have its intended effect.

Raising the cigarette tax by $1 will generate nearly $1-billion according to the state's own economists and can help address our state's budget shortfall. But perhaps the greatest outcome of this tax increase is that it is a proven method to reduce smoking among children.

The dangers of smoking and its toll on lives are not new, but 4,000 kids try their first cigarette every day. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent. It's time for our state to recommit to fighting tobacco use, especially among teens.

The $1-billion raised by the increased tobacco tax is also a simple way to offset the annual cost of treating sick smokers and a highly effective way to reduce the number of kids who start.

Hiram Green, Tampa

A fiscal fable takes a new twist

Corporate bailouts, the banking crisis, an economy in the toilet: This is the news that daily greets the St. Petersburg Times reader. The water cooler chatter resounds with the hows and the whys. Groping, we want to point our chubby little fingers and say there's the problem. Well we don't have to look far for the reason and less far for the solution.

There's the tale of the industrious ant who toiled all summer to put something away while the grasshopper fiddled his days away and had nothing come winter. For years we watched as one side of the political aisle pandered to the likes of the unions while the other side sidled up to the CEOs.

Magic money fell from the sky as we borrowed against the smoke-and-mirror home equity. Buy now, pay later. And the list goes on.

Despite all our angst about global warming, winter is coming. Unlike the fate of the poor grasshopper, many who fiddled away the summer won't learn that same harsh lesson. Here's where today's version of the fable takes a morbid twist. The industrious ants, i.e., those of us who worked and saved and put a little away for winter, will be forced to dig into our coffers to save those who fiddle theirs away.

If this were the lesson Aesop had told, those fables would have been lost in time, kind of like our money.

Mark Campbell, St. Petersburg

Same-sex benefits targeted | Nov. 21, story

We were warned

Amendment 2 sought to define marriage as "the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife," and that "no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

The "Yes on 2" leaders promised they were only trying to protect marriage and no one would risk losing health benefits. The opponents of Amendment 2 said domestic partner benefits would be at risk if it passed. The proponents said this statement was a scare tactic.

The Nov. 21 story reports that David Caton of the Florida Family Association is seeking to block domestic partner benefits to Hillsborough County employees. Caton felt passage of Amendment 2 means he has to take this action.

So, who turns out to be the group you can trust? Those who favored Amendment 2 who said they were not attacking domestic partner benefits but now are attacking these same benefits, or the opponents who warned you it could happen?

Counties and cities will face expensive legal battles to retain domestic partner benefits for their employees as groups seek to repeal the benefits when many cities and counties face strained budgets.

John Lomas, Sarasota

Let's Talk Turkey caption contest winner Nov. 23

It's not funny

The winning caption to your "Let's Talk Turkey" contest was insensitive and insulting. The cartoon with a photo of an obese man and a turkey on a bench doesn't have even the remotest connection with the passage of Amendment 2 in Florida.

That mean-spirited and denigrating amendment was anything but amusing for thousands of Florida citizens. The St. Petersburg Times obviously doesn't have a heart, but it certainly sees the need to sell papers by rubbing our noses in this tragic affair so that others may laugh. Happy Thanksgiving.

Ray Dabkowski, Dunedin

Florida economy: from bad to worse Nov. 23, editorial

Cut double-dippers

As Florida faces the most serious financial crisis in decades, it is time for the members of our Legislature to close the ridiculous self-serving loophole that permits 8,000-plus state employees to collect full "retirement" pensions and benefits as well as their full-time salaries. This last minute, late-at-night addition to a bill nearly eight years ago, intended to help some of their own, costs the taxpayers $300-million a year. Any attempts to change the law have lost traction because so many in the Legislature are feeding at the same trough or intend to do so.

I think that state legislators would be embarrassed watching vital services being threatened and cut and at the same time lining their own pockets with undeserved taxpayer money. Is there any stewardship in Tallahassee or is it all self-service?

Dave Loeffert, Dunedin

House Speaker Ray Sansom

What about ethics?

In his response to receiving a $100,000 job at a state college as a result of obtaining for the school a $200,000 grant, Speaker Ray Sansom claims, "We have jobs, we have careers."

He should also have ethics! He should give up his day job or step down as speaker. Don't give us any public-service tripe. No one asked him to run for office or twisted his arm. Just another phony politician.

Peter Brock, Sun City Center

State budget fix shouldn't target smokers 11/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 30, 2008 10:00am]
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