Running to lead by not leading | March 7, story
Voters need to know their plans
Once upon a time, the print media called on candidates for governor to present their ideas for solving state issues in a "White Paper."
Evidently the press has backed off or the candidates chose to avoid the opportunity to tell the public what their administration would do if elected. Florida's budget has deteriorated from over $71 billion to about $65 billion. One would think candidates for governor would have a proposal that would turn the direction of the state's financial woes in a positive direction.
Thinking Floridians and elected officials know Florida has been built on the cheap. Our political and business leaders have not created a financial climate that will attract high-paying jobs and wealthy retired new residents. The result is insufficient funds to keep up with growth and provide a first-rate educational system and a transportation network that effectively and efficiently moves people, services and goods.
Let's hear from Bill McCollum, Alex Sink and Paula Dockery what they plan to do about Florida's tax structure, property tax reform, the pending hurricane insurance disaster, improving Florida's K-12 program and Florida's university system. Let them tell Floridians they will not steal funds from the Florida Transportation Trust Fund or other trust funds. Tell us what they plan to do about managing growth so their plan protects Florida's fragile environment and at the same time attracts wealth. We should know their vision and goals for Florida's future.
The reality is that once a candidate declares a position on anything, that position becomes a target. The press, public and lobbyists take aim. So we get the silent treatment.
Perhaps underneath the silent treatment, Florida's next governor will be a strong leader with a vision and plan that will rebuild Florida with a viable financial system that will strengthen Florida's position in the U.S. and world economies.
Donald R. Crane Jr., St. Petersburg
State should value those in its work force
Well, here we are again. It's March, the Florida Legislature is in session, and as usual there are no real new ideas on how to deal with the more than $3 billion budget shortfall.
One idea several senators have come up with is to cut state employees' salaries by 5 percent. Other ideas include furloughs, four-day work weeks, hiring freezes and layoffs. Nothing creative, nothing new, and nothing that requires any brainpower from our elected Legislature. Keep in mind that state employees have not had an increase in their paychecks for more than four years.
The greatest resource in state government is its people — state employees. A repeal of all sales tax exemptions should be done. Only those that can pass a litmus test as being just for the majority of Floridians should be re-enacted. An immediate reinstatement of the Florida intangibles tax needs to be done. The aforementioned should be done before any cutting of services or actions that adversely affect the state work force take place.
Randy Eisenberg, Valrico
Cockamamie idea needs a thrashing March 5, Daniel Ruth column
Attack on teachers
You go, Daniel Ruth. Cockamamie is a mild description of the machinations of lobbyist-turned-senator John Thrasher. His sneaky proposal to "make sure our classrooms have the best teachers possible" would be a joke if it weren't so serious.
As a two-time ethics violator and Jeb Bush's man, he is known as John "Stop Hometown Democracy at All Costs" Thrasher.
Here's his newest opportunity to turn another institution on its head. While many teachers are working 12-14 hour days, making the most of poor financial support for our schools, here comes a posturing peacock, with a new ax to grind.
We have two devoted teachers in our family and know many more who do not deserve such blathering, especially from a politician of his ilk.
It appears Thrasher is not truly representing anyone but himself and his agenda, whatever that is.
Lilyan Dayton, New Port Richey
Cockamamie idea needs a thrashing March 5, Daniel Ruth column
Offering no answers
Daniel Ruth's article also deserves a thrashing. When he mentions modest pay for our teachers, he does not evaluate exactly what our teachers earn per hour on the job when all the extra benefits received are included.
I did not read one word of solutions toward improving our school system. His do-nothing approach about one of the largest school union benefits, which makes it difficult for correcting inefficiency and incompetence, is parallel with our present Congress.
Richard E. Allard, New Port Richey
Gambling accord looks like a good bet March 5, editorial
Gambling doesn't pay
Gambling for education: There's something contradictory about this concept.
The lottery didn't work. It may have just produced the need for more services for those devastated by losses.
Gambling, for anything, is not a good bet regardless of any moral point of view. Who does not know that?
It seems that some political factions would like to just eliminate the state's constitutionally mandated requirement of a quality education for all of our children, while picking up vouchers to send their own to private schools.
It is not debatable that our state government must pay for it. The people have shown their support for education and willingness to pay for it the "old-fashioned way" — with hard-earned tax dollars.
Henry L. "Harry" King, Clearwater
Extend recycling's reach
The St. Petersburg Times recently included several articles about the need to "clean up" Florida government. I would like to encourage all Floridians, elected and regular citizens, to pay attention to Senate Bill 570, which would enact a new state recycling goal.
Currently, Florida recycles less than 30 percent of its waste. The new goal of 75 percent is an opportunity to simultaneously address two of Florida's most critical needs: jobs and environmental protection. Recovering rather than wasting reusable materials is better for the state's economy. The recycling sector provides five times more jobs than waste disposal, according to a recent EPA study. Recycling is also a matter of preserving the environment, which is key to our tourism economy.
The question is: Are we ready to commit to building a sustainable recycling industry in Florida, or will we let our elected officials merely pay lip-service to the idea? If we are ready to commit, then it will require an investment. Developing infrastructure and markets for recycling takes money. A disposal surcharge, or "trash tax," is an equitable and self-limiting funding source. Those who waste less will pay less. And as Florida approaches and perhaps surpasses 75 percent recycling, the trash tax burden will be reduced proportionally.
David Hastings, St. Petersburg
Tight budget reining in goals | March 1
USF empire building
Florida does not need another school of pharmacy at the University of South Florida for two main reasons:
• With a pending $3 billion budget shortfall, we can't afford it.
• With five schools of pharmacy already in the state, our needs are amply met.
Although it has a smaller population, the state of Wisconsin has only one school of pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
With $179 million in present construction projects and millions of dollars more on the drawing boards, it would appear that USF is in the process of "empire building."
Helping our citizens weather the present economic storm is more important than wasting our precious monies on an unneeded school of pharmacy.
Jim Hayes, Clearwater