For revenue, end sales tax exemptions
Almost weekly we read of the worsening predictions for tax collections here in Florida. Budgets in all programs are being cut and there is talk of raising taxes. However, let's not forget the simplest tax reform of all: rescinding all the unfair sales tax exemptions that over the years lobbyists have managed to induce legislators to slip into our tax code.
The Florida Tax Handbook lists 246 exemptions to the sales tax, including stadium skyboxes, tickets to the ballet, the sales of satellites and space vehicles. If you look through the handbook, you will notice most new exemptions are for goods used by the wealthy.
While some exemptions are fair, such as the ones on groceries and medicine, most are examples of graft and corruption. Exempting sales tax on dog food for greyhound trainers while requiring tax to be paid on the average guy's dog food is ridiculous. There's a sales tax break on chartered deep-sea fishing boats but for a regular Joe, there's the sales tax on cane polls and fishing rods.
Other exemptions include ostrich feed and luxury yachts. Remove all the exemptions and the state could bring in $12.3-billion in additional revenue. And all this without taxing services or imposing any new taxes or increases on anyone.
The sales tax as originally enacted had just a few exemptions to help prevent it from being a burden to the poor. Too bad the sales tax wasn't put into the Constitution so that legislators couldn't so easily alter it to not be a burden to the rich.
Joe Moye, Tallahassee
Brazen spending of public's money Nov. 30, editorial
Boost gas tax
There's a very obvious solution. With the price of gasoline approximately $1.40 below what it was earlier in the year, why not put a temporary (e.g., 120-day) additional state tax on it? This would not be a great burden and it would have an instant and dramatic impact on the revenue shortfall.
Jack Keefe, St. Petersburg
Holding up electric deal is a nonstarter Dec. 2, editorial
Environment deserves a delay in TECO deal
Physicians for Social Responsibility-Tampa Bay holds an opinion contrary to your editorial.
Mayor Pam Iorio, Tampa City Council and TECO are aware of the public health problems created by the carcinogens and toxins emitted by TECO's coal-powered plants. Tampa Bay citizens are exposed to a wide range of adverse health conditions, including asthma, lung tissue damage, stroke, heart attack and premature death. Unborn children and infants are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of mercury, which causes brain damage, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.
TECO documented concern for its profitability and image in its 2005 white paper, "Vision and Commitment: an Environmental Report." It writes of its efforts to take "significant steps to dramatically reduce its air emissions through a series of voluntary actions." It further states, "Our values as a company mean that we must take a lead role in activities that protect the environment: the air, land, and water that comprise our service territory."
Your editorial, however, concludes with a damning assertion of TECO's long history of an unwillingness to be a good corporate citizen. The editorial also implies that the City Council is the last hope to ensure the public is better protected through the proposed franchise agreement.
We suggest a delay is appropriate so that a clause can be inserted stating the parties will work together to improve the local environment by serious consideration of any progressive changes in technology that become available. This will reassure the public that their health risks may be mitigated over the life of the franchise.
Lynn Ringenberg, president, Donald L. Mellman, vice president, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Tampa Bay
Money pit in space | Dec. 1, letter
The letter writer complained that "continuing the space program is akin to throwing trillions of dollars down the space shuttle's million-dollar toilets."
His numbers are way off. Even accounting for inflation, it would take more than 30 years for the NASA budget to add up to just $1-trillion. This year's budget for NASA is $17-billion. Compare that to the $25-billion being asked for by Detroit automakers.
What do we get for this relatively modest investment? The modern communications industry, which is the basis for today's world economy, is dependent on satellites. Likewise, we get modern weather forecasting, which saves millions of lives. Study of the Earth from space is also essential to the oil industry for finding new reserves and to other industries using natural resources that can only be adequately surveyed from space: forestry, fishery and mining, for example. And do I need to mention the importance of space observation platforms for our national security?
Does anyone think that Japan, India and China are rapidly building their respective space programs to waste money? If we are not careful, we will find ourselves dependent on foreign nations when it comes to space-based technologies on which the future economy depends.
Bruce Moyant, Seffner
Money pit in space | Dec. 1, letter
NASA deserves funding
The letter writer implies that we get nothing back for the money we spend on NASA. This couldn't be more incorrect.
Does the letter writer have a GPS unit in his car? If he does, thank NASA. Does he have a satellite TV dish on his your roof? Thank NASA. Many things in common life have come out of the space program, from cordless tools to smoke detectors.
I consider the Hubble space telescope to be one of man's greatest achievements. It does much more than take pretty pictures. With the Hubble we can see back in time, billions of years. Some would say to know where you are going, you have to know where you have been.
It's my hope President-elect Barack Obama increases funding for NASA. I can't think of a higher goal for mankind than learning more about our place in the universe.
Michael Younglove, Brandon
Keller's spiritual bailout plan | Dec. 2, story
Food for recovery
Evangelist Bill Keller suggested in Tuesday's paper that we all fast and pray on Dec. 18, and has gotten 250,000 signatures on a petition for just such a plan to be submitted to the president.
Great! Say this goes through, and all 300-million people in the United States don't eat on Dec. 18. At an average of $10 a head that would be a $3-billion hole in our economy.
A better plan would be a national go-out-to-dinner day, and everybody tip double. Now that would stimulate the economy (prayers optional).
Jerald Keeran, Tampa