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Tax rebate money ought to be spent on textbooks

Re: Florida may give $50 tax rebate, April 22.

I find it absurd that our representatives think that returning $185-million as a $50 rebate on our real estate taxes is worthwhile when Florida's public school children go without books!

Real estate taxes are collected in escrow accounts included in mortgage payments, if one pays a mortgage, and are not readily seen the same as payroll or sales tax dollars. Buying 7.4-million textbooks for children and teachers is far more important than taking a loved one to dinner, as our elite few seem to think. (My book calculation may be high, as I used $25 per textbook. However, at $50 a textbook, the result is still 3.7-million books.) Textbooks would be an enormously superior expenditure to a dinner forgotten and long flushed. It is a crime that students have to share school books and are not able to take textbooks home to read. Textbooks are the foundation for learning and benefit Florida's students and teachers now and in the future.

The $1.8-million it would cost to mail this "slap in the face" to our children could be used to pay the teachers the extra money taken away from their stipend. The teachers are the front line in educating our children and should have the tools they need to do it. I guess our elected leaders would send a soldier into battle without a gun!

I'm beginning to believe that our elected representatives check their brains at the door before they enter the House and Senate chambers.

Thomas Lederer New Port Richey

Slow learners

Re: Florida may give $50 tax rebate, April 22.

I'm outraged at the proposal to give a tax rebate of $50 to property owners of homes assessed at $150,000 or less with a homestead exemption. The article stated the cost would be $185-million. How many textbooks would this money buy? How many pencils, pieces of paper or whatever needs the teachers have so they don't have to pay for the supplies out of their own pockets?

We keep electing legislators who, while campaigning, speak of all the lofty things they will do for education, mental health, campaign reform, children's issues, social services, environment, etc. After the election they forget all the wonderful things they have proposed and we _ the electorate who voted for them _ are sitting reading the "accomplishments" and are aghast at the results.

I keep thinking that with younger, child-rearing people in the Legislature, our public school system will advance. I keep hoping my peers in the Legislature (grandparents) will, because of our experience, know that funding our schools will pay off in future leaders.

When do we learn _ or do we all need to go back to school?

Beverly Mitlin, St. Petersburg

Lottery needs more small winners

Re: Lawmakers want boost for lottery, April 23.

Lottery sales have been flat for the last few years as the Florida Lottery completes its 10th year. The proposed answer _ add more lottery machines _ is wrong.

Time and time again, people have written to you complaining about the small returns for three, four and five numbers. The bread and butter of the lottery are the people who cash in tickets with three correct numbers. It is not the high payoffs that induce people to buy more tickets. Everyone who plays the lottery is realistic enough to realize that winning five or six numbers is almost impossible. Most people play to get three or four numbers.

Therefore, increasing the payoffs for three numbers to $6, $7 or $8 so that more money is returned to the betting public will result, in turn, in their reinvesting it in the lottery.

There is substantially more competition now for the leisure dollar than there was 10 years ago.

That TV program on Saturday nights is just a constant drain of money from the lottery. Do away with it and return those millions of dollars to the little guy.

Doris Innes, Hudson

Windfall for the well-off

As the disparity of wealth in this country grows unabated, our legislators take decisive action. They include in the Tax Relief Act of 1997 the opportunity for you and your spouse to sell your principal residence and make a $500,000 profit tax-free. This, however, was not sufficient tax relief so they made this non-taxable windfall available every two years.

When the two parties were debating their conflicting priorities in balancing the budget, I do not understand how this proposal was agreed upon. This is a provocative question! What is your explanation?

Harold Placet, Seminole

Bigger banks aren't better

Re: Bank mergers.

The headlines in the April 14 Times read BANKS, FEWER, BIGGERThere was no mention of them being better or less expensive. We have already been warned that rates for all bank services will be increasing. Some banks may have frozen their fees until the year 2000. So what? That's only a year and a half away.

Granted the joining of two large banks will benefit the stockholders and top management, but what about the many small bank customers who have helped make the banks grow? What about the many tellers, bookkeepers and other bank employees who will be without jobs?

This economy has been built on fair competition to maintain a level playing field. How can the regulators give the larger banks the right to purchase smaller local banks and then merge with another large bank to create a monopoly?

Every year we read about the large banks making handsome profits. They never seem to cut rates or reduce fees to pass anything on to their customers. There is a difference between profiting and gouging _ or is there? Bigger and fewer certainly is not better.

Frank Justison, St. Petersburg

The influence of the wealthy

We who live in a country which is envied for being the greatest democracy that has ever existed in the history of the world are being confronted by its possible demise.

If that seems an exaggeration, consider that one of its richest citizens is thought to contribute to the bringing-down of the president of the United States (A conflicted prosecutor, editorial, April 16). This very wealthy citizen has been accused of paying for Kenneth Starr, the supposedly independent prosecutor of the president, to become a member of Pepperdine University's school of law some time in the future when his job for the government is finished. This is a bribe of no little significance.

We have watched and lamented and tried to end the soft-money donations to the members of Congress with little success, and now the influence of the very wealthy is being used to bring down our president, the officer who should have more protection from assaults from a prosecutor who is not genuinely independent.

When the rich of the country can exert so much influence in the workings of a democracy against the opinion of the majority of the citizens, then we are in grave danger of losing forever the freedom and rights given by the Constitution.

Regardless of the accusations against the president having to do with his personal life (which should be between him and his wife and his maker), let no one who is ardent about our freedom take this move to unseat our president lightly. It is the beginning of the end of "will of the people."

Sarah T. McAfoose, Port Richey

Cartoon was a cheap shot

Re: Bill Schorr's April 13 cartoon showing President Clinton as a satyr.

Our Republican family is amazed that a newspaper such as the Times would print this cartoon.

Granted, Clinton may have left himself vulnerable. But in a sense of doing what he was elected to do, he is trying and succeeding even with the distractions financed by the American Spectator. The distractions are as yet unproved, until which time the accused is innocent. This makes the cartoon "a cheap shot" and a disservice to your readers.

Karl H. Harris, Clearwater

World War II memorial should come first

Re: Kim returns to Congress day after sentencing, March 11.

At the risk of being labeled an anti-Semite, permit me to make the following observations:

Hidden in the above-referenced Associated Press article, mention was made of Congress having before it a legislative bill to allow a Holocaust remembrance in the Capitol Rotunda.

Golly, I thought remembrances in that hallowed hall were reserved for American history. Someone out there, please make a case that the ghastly murder of Jews in Europe by a Nazi regime during World War II somehow connects to American history or is a nexus to any of this nation's milestones.

As a World War II veteran, it's perplexing that the Holocaust remembrance and the federal land grant Congress willed for the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., somehow should and, in fact, has taken precedence over a memorial for the 16-million men and women who served and the 1-million military casualties that resulted from that war.

It's more than 50 years since the end of World War II. A memorial for veterans of that war is mired in bickering among bureaucrats on design and memorial location. If the Washington Select Committee can stall for another 10 years, there will be no need for one. Most, if not all, of us veterans of that war will be dead!

The populace, especially the generations behind us, will forget or really not care about the supreme sacrifices made to preserve this nation by the armed forces and civilians as well. However, they will have that despicable European legacy in our Capitol Rotunda and Holocaust museums in select U.S. cities as remembrances to reflect upon.

J. Anderson, (U.S. Navy, retired), New Port Richey

An onerous comparison

I believe you owe an apology to the U.S. Marine Corps and every member thereof, alive and dead.

In a "major" recent front page story your organization made comparison of the ubiquitous social worker, some woman that looked as if she belonged on the set of Caroline in the City, to the Marines. She is not responsible for the many fine perks and freedoms she now enjoys as do you in your lifestyle today.

"Today" was bought and paid for by the Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard in military action. In 1950-51 the Third Marine Division was wiped out three times, approximately 54,000 men, by the Chinese Communists in Korea.

I am not, was not a Marine, but was very closely involved in that "U.N." police action in Korea, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

I trust you will take the time from your duties as local "opinion maker" to correct this onerous comparison in your newspaper.

Stewart A. Fontaine Sr., St. Petersburg

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