How to give back $500 million
What to do with $500 million? | March 2
Politicians are highly skilled at separating constituents from their money, but when it comes time for giving some of it back they are dumbfounded. Now that it appears the big pile of money raised by the Hillsborough transportation tax seems to have been collected illegally, politicians are desperately making excuses for why it can’t be refunded back to the taxpayers from whom it was misappropriated. The answer is simple: If they raised sales tax one percent to 8.5% to snatch money from taxpayers, they can lower it one percent below the county’s normal sales tax to 6.5% for 26 months. The tax loss can be reimbursed with the $500 million. Since they like to name these sales tax programs they could call it “Penny to the Purloined.” Problem solved, and I did it without a referendum or consultation fee.
David Fraser, Clearwater
Good call on testing
The newspaper — and the legislators cited — intelligently thread the needle between postponing school testing and misusing the findings. On the one hand, we speculate about the effects of the pandemic on child development. Hard data will yield surprises, some may be positive, and some will provide fresh insights, going forward. But regular accountability under extraordinary circumstances is meaningless.
Pat Byrne, Largo
Can’t be a Republican anymore
Rubio, Scott decline to lay out legal reasons for opposing Trump impeachment | Jan. 28
I sent the following message to Marco Rubio and Rick Scott this morning: I have renounced my Republican affiliation after long thought. I have been a Republican for almost 50 years.
You no longer represent my interests in Washington. You support the continuation of the Big Lie. You provide no clear policies that help Americans, no accountability for a corrupt president. I see cowardice instead of leadership, and no direction on COVID.
This all points to a lack of integrity. I cannot in good conscience vote for you again.
Robert M. Peters, St. Pete Beach
Student loan solutions
I couldn’t agree more with Mac Stipanovich’s column last Sunday about student loan debt. I, too, wondered about students currently in the pipeline waiting for loan approval for higher education while graduates, and non-graduates, are struggling to pay. Wiping out the debt of the latter does nothing to solve the problem of the former. A letter writer offered a good solution: Allow student loan debt to be erased, or eased in bankruptcy courts. This could be done on a case-by-case basis and would separate those whose return on investment is assured, such as graduates in high paying jobs like dentistry.
The letter writer also pointed out that Mr. Stipanovich offered no solutions. In addition to his suggestion of bankruptcy, I contend that it would pose no serious hardship on our economy if the interest rate on student loans was reduced to the same rates as current mortgage interest. Student loan rates average 4.66% to 7.27%. Average mortgage interest is 2.36% to 3.13%. While that may not seem like much savings every month or every year, it can make a difference to low income graduates who chose degrees in the social sciences. They may not make as much money as orthodontists, but they still contribute to the overall health of a community.
Deborah Fischbach, St. Petersburg
Weak on climate change
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget proposal included $1 billion in funding over four years for a new program titled “Resilient Florida.” If approved, the project would help local governments pay for infrastructure upgrades that address climate change’s impacts.
The project is too little too late.
While it sounds like a lot of money, $1 billion in infrastructure upgrades isn’t even close to the true costs Florida communities will have to pay as we see climate change wreak its havoc on our state. In Tampa, one possible solution to mitigate the effects of climate change is to build a seawall, estimated to cost $938.35 million. This single project in a single city, itself insufficient for preventing climate catastrophe, would deplete nearly the entire statewide project budget.
A better approach? Prevent disaster. We need to be investing now in solutions that mitigate climate change’s worst impacts.
The Florida Legislature and our governor appear to have no interest in this. In fact, they are actively working to hamper local governments’ ability to do anything at all about climate until it’s too late. SB 856 is a preemption bill that, if passed, would prohibit local governments’ control of energy infrastructure, including the bold transitions to renewable energy necessary to avoid climate disaster.
At a time when we should be giving all our political resources to the fight against climate change, Tallahassee is turning a blind eye to the problem. By throwing money at a climate resiliency project, Gov. DeSantis wants us to ignore the Legislature’s hollowing out of Florida’s first line defenders against climate disaster: our local governments. Don’t let him.
Matt Brownell, Riverview