State workers draw two checks | Feb. 23
In defense of DROP
I understand how a casual discussion of the state retirement system's DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) appears to be a double-dip fleecing of the taxpayers, but a deeper examination of the issue will expose the whole truth. DROP programs perform two valuable functions.
• DROP does not discourage the hiring of younger talent by keeping senior employees on the payroll longer. It does exactly the opposite by requiring that senior employees leave the job after the five-year term of the DROP has expired. Many of these employees, perhaps most of them, would have stayed in their positions well beyond those five years without the DROP. Because of this, the position is available for new hires sooner, not later.
• The term double dipping suggests that additional funds are being drained from the government's coffers. This is not true. When employees enter the DROP plan, they are paid the salary they were making prior to signing on. This is an expense government would have had whether it was going to a new, inexperienced employee or to the seasoned veteran. In addition to maintaining their current paycheck, the employees' pension income is put into a tax-deferred fund. They do not receive the money until after they've surrender their jobs.
No matter who is working the job, the experienced employee in the DROP or a new employee, both the salary and the pension would have to be paid. It is also important to remember that many pension plans are in part paid for by the employee, so when the benefit is received, it is by the employee who helped fund it in the first place.
There is no doubt that the DROP plan enhances an employees benefit package, but it is a package that has been deteriorating for years. When you account for the time and money spent training new employees, it can actually be viewed as a savings.
There is plenty of waste in government, but the DROP plan is one of the few programs where everyone benefits.
David Fraser, Clearwater
Pentagon missile hits dying satellite | Feb. 21, story
Navy deserves the credit
Since when are missiles fired from the Pentagon? I take issue with your main headline on Thursday. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the U.S. Navy is on patrol all over the globe, defending our freedom and proudly representing the United States in foreign lands, both friendly and unfriendly. Please support the troops and give them their due.
I'm a retired Navy veteran, and it would have made me, countless other Navy veterans, as well as all Americans, proud to read this headline in the St. Petersburg Times: "Navy missile hits dying satellite."
The Pentagon is a vital part of our country's defense, and the troops and civilians who work there are dedicated to their jobs, but all they really do is push paper and make policy. Give the troops in the field the credit when it is due to them.
Mark J. Gibson, lieutenant, U.S. Navy (retired), Land O'Lakes
More laptops, less learning | Feb. 16, commentary
Get back to basics
When I was a student of education almost 25 years ago, I thought that computers would have a positive impact on teaching. Within recent years, my observations have changed. When I listen to today's youth talk about a subject, it lacks the depth and accuracy of years ago, when real learning was with a paper and pencil. I often go to the public library, where the cream-of-the-crop of students go to "study." I often notice that they are checking their e-mail, perusing MySpace and looking up the latest news about Britney Spears. Maybe the real studying will be later.
Cheating is rampant in our schools, mostly because of these idiot boxes, which facilitate plagiarism. (Teachers have to have the papers checked for plagiarism by software.) The difference between now and the days of old-fashioned education is that we did research by doing the hard work of reading several books or articles to write a paper. (As a result, I still remember some of what I had written many years later.)
To make my point, Jaime Escalante, who was portrayed in the movie Stand and Deliver, caught his students' interest about calculus with a knife and apple. It was not with computers and their fancy programs!
Computers in education only give us the impression of a sophisticated learning system. We need to get back to the days when a teacher's creativity reigned. In addition, we would not have the huge budgets that drain the schools. Nor would we have children whose attention spans are as short as that of a fly, because of "multitasking." We need to get back to the basics for many reasons.
Elka Zwick, St. Petersburg
Split the winnings
Spending $3 on a lottery ticket isn't going to help too many people and won't help the economy of Florida.
The recent $37-million jackpot would have helped Floridians more if 37 sets of numbers were drawn to give 37 people $1-million each. That makes more sense and would help to prevent more house foreclosures.
Beth Harmon, Holiday
I was absolutely furious to read that some state employees are receiving both a salary and a pension. To find out that there is a "loophole" in the law that allows them to collect both their pension and a salary is outrageous.
I don't have a problem with someone retiring and going on to work elsewhere; that's fine. What bothers me is that I, a retiree on a fixed income, am paying sales tax on necessities like clothes, and some of those sales tax dollars are going to pay some state employees twice, at a cost last year of $300-million.
Every Florida resident should be writing to the folks in Tallahassee to stop this immediately. Gov. Charlie Crist calls himself the "People's Governor." If so, he should prove it and do something about this.
Those dollars could provide needed services to the elderly and needy, improve roads or other things instead of raising taxes. It could also offer more state employment to provide those services, spreading out the dollars in the economy instead of stuffing just a few pockets.
Charles A. Barlick Sr., Tampa
Put money to better use
I've heard many complaints involving the recent amendment concerning property taxes. People are concerned about the reduction in tax-funded services, such as those for special needs individuals, despite the fact that these tax savings help seniors/retirees on fixed incomes.
Well now we know how to supplement these services. Let's close the loophole that allows state workers to collect a pension and a salary at the same time. Eliminate this double dipping and you satisfy two needs: creating additional financial resources and additional job opportunities.
I am concerned that tax dollars are so blatantly misused by the very people who are responsible for managing these funds and/or passing laws to do so!
Michele F. Salerno, Port Richey