State budget deficit
Work together to end the crisis
Not even the experts agree on how to solve our economic problems. Some oppose tax increases of any kind, yet the problem of the deficit remains.
Obviously things like Amendment 1 failed to adequately stimulate the economy, and the real estate market remains depressed. Here are some ideas that we can look at:
• Gov. Charlie Crist's idea of giving unpaid two-week furloughs to many state workers for an estimated $300-million saving is a good idea. I admit that it would be hard for me to accept it, but considering the alternative of more layoffs, it would be far less painful. Other agencies should also consider furloughs in place of layoffs as most of the economic problems are related to high unemployment.
• Instead of borrowing $300-million to build more prisons, we should consider giving earlier parole and alternative sentencing to nonviolent offenders.
Many nonviolent offenders could be sentenced to extensive community service in place of incarceration. We then reduce the costs of prison as well as provide needed community service.
• Increase the tax on cigarettes. This may also serve to reduce smoking among underage individuals, as well as offset the higher costs of health care that has resulted from smoking.
• Increase fines for traffic offenses, especially speeding. Even with high unemployment I continue to see big gas-guzzling cars zooming on the highway like it's the Indy 500.
To sum it up, "we the people" need to work together and make choices that will not only benefit us as individuals but also the economy as a whole.
Carl E. Graham, Largo
Time for lawmakers to act like grown-ups
The state is in crisis. Here are a number of things that will not be popular in some quarters, but will provide answers to the current budget problem:
• Double- and triple-dipping need to go, now. The media should track how the votes fall on this issue so the voters can get rid of politicians who vote against doing away with this.
• Tax all services, not sparing the special interests who have had preferential treatment for so long.
• Increase the tourist tax 1 percentage point, not only on motels and hotels, but also amusement parks.
• For all government employees, there should be a pay cut: from middle management, a 5 percent cut and from top management a 10 percent cut. For the next two years there should be a maximum increase of 2 percent, based on performance.
• Enact a $25 "user" fee per year for anyone who resides here for six months or less. Simply track it with a colored decal for the car showing the fee has been paid. Boaters have had the system for years.
Lawmakers, you are now in special session. Put on your "big boy" pants and do something meaningful for our state.
Elections are coming, and we are watching.
Jim Heady, South Pasadena
Cut back on hours
State, county and city governments in Florida are among our largest employers. Like private industry, there is duplication and waste in all levels within the employee ranks.
I worked at one of the largest employers in Florida for more than 30 years and when budget problems could not be reduced by normal budget cuts, the company, instead of layoffs, cut large work groups' hours from 40 to 32. This could be done with government employees on a rotation basis for each work group for six months.
Since employee cost is one of the highest in an operating budget, this reduction in work hours would have an immediate savings and reduce the deficit quickly during these tough times, while employees would keep their jobs and benefits.
This reduction in work hours should include all work groups, including commissioners.
John Douglas, Clearwater
Florida, this is going to hurt | Jan. 4, story
First, end special sessions
Our legislators' first cut in the budget should be eliminating the need for special legislative sessions. At a minimum cost of $40,000 per day (a very conservative estimate) and with the average special legislative sessions lasting a minimum of two weeks, that would trim up to $560,000 right off the bat.
At first glance this doesn't seem like a lot of money considering we now speak of billions with the ease once reserved for mere thousands of dollars. However, considering how many special sessions our lawmakers have required to do their jobs, this could easily have cost our state millions of dollars.
In my humble opinion it's time to hold our legislators accountable for these unnecessary and costly sessions. They seldom bring any innovative and lasting solutions to the issues they are convened for. Our state cannot afford this "legislative overtime."
Leave our education and health care budgets alone; the needy should not have to bear the brunt of poor governing. Look to your own legislative process to bring our budget under control.
Diana Rao, Tampa
Relevance is missing | Dec. 30, letter
Knowledge has value
The letter writer said that the English classes he has been "forced to take" are "basically worthless" and "of little use." This is a sad commentary which is, unfortunately, reflective of a particularly American strain of anti-intellectualism.
As a resident of the "real world," I completely disagree that studying English literature is a wasted effort. The underlying purpose of a liberal arts education is to provide students with a dense cultural background so that they can place the new ideas and situations they will (hopefully) encounter the rest of their lives into some context. To understand the present, we need to know the past and all subjects, from algebra to zoology, build upon what came before, and are therefore "historical" in nature.
While some resist this idea and prefer to deal only in the present, they are short-changing themselves. An "I don't care" attitude subverts the goal of higher education, which is knowledge and understanding.
Jonathan Coleman, Tampa
Resolve to be a hero
In 2009 let us resolve to rock someone's world. This can be done at our own convenience and in about 30 minutes. We can donate blood at Florida Blood Services mobiles and learn about apheresis. We can register to be organ/tissue donors with LifeLink and inform our families of our wishes. Expectant mothers can make arrangements with their OB-GYN to donate cord blood.
The National Marrow Donor Program needs more people, especially minorities, to register as potential donors. In that half hour you will become a quiet hero to a trauma, transplant, burn or cancer patient.
Bob Wise, Tampa