Senate, House approve budgets - April 4
I'm a member of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, whose mission since 1833 has been to serve the poor of the world. As a volunteer, I see a lot of folks in dire need. We do what we can to help the poor within the constraints of our limited resources.
Last week I helped a client who has been adversely affected by the inhumane actions of the Republican Florida House majority in rejecting Medicaid expansion and the totally uncaring, do-nothing attitude of the governor on this issue. This young man is 27 years old and suffers from hepatitis and Crohn's disease. He would have been covered by Medicaid expansion but now has no means to effectively treat his incapacitating and painful medical problems. He is just one example of the severe impacts the decision to withhold Medicaid coverage has had on the many poor people I see on a regular basis.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay the entire cost for three years and no less than 90 percent thereafter. This would allow poor people to get appropriate medical care and also be a real boost to the Florida economy. These tax dollars that Floridians have paid to the federal government will now go elsewhere. Yet House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, continues to refuse Medicaid coverage expansion. The decision of Weatherford and the Florida House Republican majority has no practical or logical justification. It's immoral and not in the best interests of the hardworking people of Florida.
Dieter Weber, St. Petersburg
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House blocks vote on solar - April 2
Thwarting the will of voters
What happened to democracy? Florida Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, demonstrates all that is wrong with politics in Tallahassee. He is blocking a hearing in the House on a bill that would place on the November ballot an amendment to give tax breaks to businesses that install solar panels. A similar amendment for tax exemptions for renewable energy improvements to residential properties was approved by Florida voters in 2008.
Workman claims he doesn't want to underwrite incentives for solar. He seems to ignore the fact that the coal, oil and gas industries in this country continue to receive billions of dollars in tax breaks. Why shouldn't clean energy be allowed a level playing field to compete?
This is not "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" when one man in a powerful position can block all of the voters in the state of Florida from having a say on providing incentives for clean energy like solar.
Roger Little, St. Petersburg
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State Housing Initiatives Partnership
Restore funds for housing
With the Florida Legislature no longer burdened by a budget deficit, the Senate leadership voted to restore state and local affordable housing trust funds to normal operation. This would return to local governments their share of the funds through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program, or SHIP.
SHIP uses a population-based formula to distribute revenue collected from Florida's documentary stamp tax. Its performance, transparency and accountability are tried and true. It is also highly flexible and can be used for strategies from housing homeless veterans to providing first-time homeownership for moderate-income families. Using the trust funds for housing in fiscal year 2014-15 will create over 22,000 jobs and over $2.3 billion in positive economic activity for Florida.
The Florida Senate's budget appropriates $226.13 million from the housing trust funds for the successful SHIP and State Apartment Incentive Loan programs, while the House proposes only $89.3 million.
The difference in funding has the most substantial effect on the local SHIP program. The Senate funding level provides $24 million for the Tampa Bay region; the House level provides $5.3 million for the same area.
The House and Senate will presently be in conference to pass a budget bill. The House leadership should join with the Senate in using all the housing trust fund monies for housing. It's the right thing to do for Florida.
Jaimie Ross, president, Florida Housing Coalition, Tallahassee
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State park groups upset by proposals
Money does the talking
This bill would complicate the "friends of state parks" groups' fundraising and hamper their activities. I wonder if some developer who contributes to one of the bill's sponsors has greedy eyes for some of the land the parks occupy. This could help grease the wheels for putting in RV parks or additional overpriced concession stands. Remember, this is the same party whose current governor tried to arrange a fire sale of state environmental lands and whose Department of Environmental Protection tried to allow a permanent RV park on Honeymoon Island.
You can't trust these people to look out for you unless you write giant checks to them.
Chris Woodard, Tampa
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Designed as entry-level pay
I have trouble understanding the logic of people, including the president, who demand the minimum wage be raised. The argument that "a family cannot survive on minimum wage" is a moot point. They aren't supposed to. In order to have sufficient funds to take care of a family, the parents must complete their education and at least venture into vocational secondary education. Better yet, obtain a bachelor's degree. Higher education allows you to obtain a job with higher pay. Minimum wage was never intended to feed, clothe and house an entire family. It is an entry-level wage for young people starting out, or for part-time work during college, or maybe for a retiree seeking to supplement retirement income.
When I was a teenager, I was told by my parents that if I didn't graduate high school, it would be virtually impossible to get a job. And if I didn't complete some sort of secondary education, like college, I would never be able to earn enough money to support myself. My parents told me to not have babies at a young age because I would never be able to support them on minimum wage. At no point did they mention food stamps or any type of government assistance. They simply told me "you need to work hard and earn what you want."
Minimum wage was not and is not meant to support a family.
Susan Caron, Lithia