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VOTERS KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING

OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR AMENDMENT 1

I read Wednesday's front page and editorial page, and you seem to think the overwhelming support for Amendment 1 was curious, i.e., voters didn't understand its impact. Instead, perhaps you did not understand the voters. Two "impact" examples cited:

- "A blue ribbon panel ... studying tax reform ... today (has) far less room to play." The previous articles on the panel listed the obstacles. The major ones exist regardless of Amendment 1.

- The Times warns that "Tuesday's vote could bolster legal challenges to Save Our Homes." The constitutional issue is already before the courts and doesn't depend on whether Amendment 1 passed or failed. If portability is someday declared unconstitutional, at least we brought the homestead exemption a step closer to the current century.

What drove a record number of voters to Amendment 1 Tuesday was something not discussed much by the paper. Government spending doubled recently. Few voters were as lucky with their incomes.

Amendment 1 may only produce "modest" cash benefits for Floridians (and not stop the real estate slide) but it sends a big message to officials that when the public finds itself in a budget squeeze, no one can justify a need for limitless government spending (at least not to the vast majority of voters).

Bill Boyd, Apollo Beach

Too many sold out

Tuesday, Jan. 29, was a sad day for Florida.

It was a sad day when voters were bought for $240, not even enough to take the family to dinner once a month.

It was a sad day when the Florida education system, already faced with extreme financial burdens, is now looking at even more financial burdens.

It was a sad day when Florida's young families still cannot afford a home because their tax burden will still be in the hundreds of dollars a month so the people who voted for Amendment 1 could save $240 a year.

It was a sad day when an unfair and unjust tax system was perpetuated even though it is one of the biggest economic problems Florida faces.

It was a sad day when Gov. Charlie Crist says, "I'm delighted for the people of Florida," for giving them $240 to increase his popularity.

Michael Logan, St. Petersburg

Amendment 1 and the Pinellas School District tax

It's the people's money

The solid approval of Amendment 1 reflects significant taxpayer desire for property tax relief and not merely an inability to resist the opportunity or Gov. Charlie Crist's support. Many taxpayers are reminded that the funds are their money, which doesn't change character just because it passes into government coffers.

There is a message in the Amendment 1 results for all elected politicians as well as for the unions, which supported its defeat. It may not be the best result and needs may still exist but, it is taxpayers, not politicians, who pay the money. Elected officials derive much of their power and influence from taxpayer money, and that isn't always good.

The support for the Pinellas County School District property tax may reflect that voters place a high value on education generally, on children and the relevance of such funding to the economy and quality of life. The Pinellas school administration and School Board should read the result not just as a requirement to spend the money properly, but more importantly to measurably and consistently improve some of the poor academic performance of students in the public schools. Confidence and accountability are at stake.

James R. Gillespie, St. Petersburg

Amendment 1

A value is lost

On paper, the passage of Amendment 1, marginally lowering real estate taxes, sounds good. And for those homeowners who voted in the affirmative for the purpose of easing their tax burden, it was good.

However, nothing depresses home prices more quickly and deeply than the potential for substandard municipal services. Unfortunately, that potential will now be realized.

So, regardless of what type of rosy picture our local real estate agents will now be painting, those homeowners who voted in Amendment 1 for the sole purpose of increasing their home's value might well have shot themselves in the foot.

Howard Karlitz, Fort Lauderdale

The real cure

Here's the only "sure" way to cure the unfair real estate tax problem. There must be a total reassessment of every home in the state at current value. Then we need to divide that new value into the budgets and arrive at new millage rate. Then while all homes could enjoy a 3 percent Save Our Homes guarantee, this should be combined with a 3 percent cap on budget expenditures, guaranteeing balanced budgets while protecting taxpayers from out-of-control spending and tax increases. Vacant property would follow the same re-evaluation.

In case you think this is impossible, it has been done in other areas such as Nassau County, N.Y.

Robert Landman, Dunedin

Bush tries to seal legacy - Jan. 29, story

The fix we are in

I couldn't help but chuckle (nonhumorously) over the excerpts I read in the Times regarding President Bush's State of the Union address.

On housing: "We must trust Americans with the responsibility of home ownership and empower them to weather turbulent times in the housing market."

Thanks, President Bush, for your support and entrusting us with a power we have no control over. If it weren't for the greed of the real estate, development and insurance industries, we might not be in the fix we are in now, facing a possible recession.

On the economy: "To build a prosperous future, we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our economy. ... In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth."

Thanks again, President Bush, for another power we have no control over. The corporate greed in this country is another factor, and perhaps the main one, leading the economic woes we are facing. The outsourcing of manufacturing plants and labor to other countries for cheaper wages and overhead costs while socking it to the American people with top-dollar prices for goods only benefits these corporations and costs the jobs of thousands of Americans, who now cannot support our own economy.

On Iraq: "Our enemies in Iraq have been hit hard. They are not yet defeated and we can still expect tough fighting ahead."

I got the biggest chuckle out of this excerpt. What do you mean by "we" and "our," Mr. President?

I don't know how anyone else may feel, but our country is in a needless and unacceptable situation with war and a tough road ahead to revive our sinking economy. I know why this country is in harm's way and so do the majority of Americans.

Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City

Bush tries to seal legacy - Jan. 29, story

What he has wrought

President Bush doesn't have to worry about his legacy to America. He is leaving us with one that has not been paralleled in history and will be remembered forever. During his administration the following has occurred:

- The United States has invaded a sovereign nation under false pretenses at the cost of many lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

- Our nation is in hock up to its eyeballs, and generations after us will be paying for his blunders.

- The environment is approaching a disaster stage due to his inaction.

- The world's health care and education have surpassed us.

- The United States has outsourced its manufacturing expertise and all the jobs that go with it.

One may ask as to why this happened. We let it happen, and we are making the same mistake with the entire slew of current candidates whether they be Republican or Democrat. What a joke on us!

Burt Yellin, Sun City Center

Economic stimulus

A toast to change

It will be a year before a real stimulus to the economy happens. It will happen when President Bush leaves office. Multimillions of bottles of champagne will be sold in celebration. I know I'll be doing my part to stimulate the economy.

Nancy Whitman, St. Petersburg

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