Border tax hits consumers hard
While the House Republicans' "Better Way for Tax Reform" blueprint includes positive aspects like lower corporate tax rates, it also includes a Border Adjustment Tax, a proposal that goes against everything their constituents voted for.
BAT is a protectionist policy that picks winners and losers by levying a 20 percent tax on imports while exempting exports. It is a national sales tax that will hit consumers in their wallets.
Because retailers will pass their costs on to consumers, many families could take a hit of around $1,700 in the first year of BAT, taking away from college funds or mortgage payments.
Approximately 9 percent of Florida's economy is supported by imports, including everything from phones to perfumes to bananas. In fact, bananas are a prime example of the impact of the BAT. Florida imports $483 million worth of bananas each year, so consumers can expect the price of bananas to rise, along with that of many other foods and clothing.
In our hurricane-prone state, most reinsurance money comes from foreign investors and would be subject to BAT tax hikes. Florida TaxWatch calculated rates could increase for families by almost 13 percent, leaving them less money to spend and save and ultimately resulting in less economic activity for Florida's recovering economy.
While proponents sell the BAT as a "Made in America" tax to incentivize companies to stay in the United States, real life is more complicated than academic theory.
Republicans, be warned. The BAT is founded on flawed logic that would have devastating consequences. Levying a tax on consumers will not strengthen the American economy; it will cost Republicans across the country their seats. Simply put, many of my fellow Republicans seem to have forgotten that the ends do not always justify the means.
John Giotis, Clearwater
New mosquito controls
As we enter the warm summer months, the threat of another Zika outbreak in Florida is looming. That is why I have and will continue to urge the federal government to quickly authorize new strategies that can be used to both curb the spread of the virus and prevent additional outbreaks.
The mosquitoes that spread Zika are called Aedes aegypti. It is an invasive species and uniquely built to spread disease because it loves living in and around our homes and it loves to feed off humans rather than other mammals.
Besides Zika, it spreads a number of other diseases — yellow fever and dengue, just to name two. International travel and warm weather only increase the chance that these diseases are not only here to stay, but that we will continue to see more outbreaks.
While ongoing research for a vaccine is imperative, we can't only focus on a solution that will cost billions of dollars and that won't be ready for years. I think we should be focused on the root of the problem — identifying new, innovative solutions to cut down on the population of Aedes aegypti. Some of those solutions already exist today.
One example of the technology I've advocated for is the Oxitec genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquito. When it is released into the wild, it doesn't bite, it doesn't transmit disease, but does transmit a self-limiting gene that makes its offspring die before reaching adulthood.
This technology is being used successfully in some countries already. If we had it available here, we would have one less thing to be anxious about.
So as we enter into the summer months, I urge Floridians everywhere to take a few minutes to learn how to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases by going to the websites of the CDC or the Florida Department of Health.
State Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes
The writer is speaker of the Florida House.
Board's latest crisis: lack of money | May 11
Step up enforcement
I read this headline in bewilderment. As a licensed Florida general contractor, I compete and work every day in Pinellas County facing unlicensed, uninsured "contractors." They're easy to spot on Pinellas County roads. It's usually a weighty unmarked pickup truck pulling an unmarked white double- or single-axle enclosed trailer. That vehicle-rig would constitute a Pinellas County citation of $500 for either a contractor working without a license or a licensed contractor working without proper display of a license number.
How can an agency that operates solely on fees and fines be in this predicament when it could easily enforce the law, even the playing field for legitimate contractors and protect residents? The notion of fixing this by increasing the license fee to contractors is appalling. The agency had a $274,000 shortfall in the current fiscal year. Based on fines and 261 workdays in a year, that is just over two citations short per day. That shortfall could be attained daily within the few blocks surrounding its midcounty location. Increase enforcement and fix the capability of the agency to collect the fees.
Paul C. Boyll, St. Petersburg