Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on collecting online sales taxes:
The case against requiring online retailers to collect state sales taxes gets thinner with each passing year.
Most recently, the decision by Amazon to build warehouses in Hillsborough and Polk counties means the world's largest online retailer will now be required to collect the 6 percent tax on Florida sales.
That should open the door for legislative action to impose the requirement on all online retailers, even those without any physical operations in the state. Doing so would level the playing field for brick-and-mortar stores, which must charge the sales tax and are at a decided disadvantage when competing with online retailers exempt from collecting the tax.
But don't hold your breath. Even though hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue could be generated annually for the state, lawmakers seeking re-election may be reluctant to have their names attached to legislation being miscast by its opponents as a tax increase.
Just to be clear, the issue is not about increasing taxes. It's about fairness, and about capturing revenue that is owed to the state but that goes uncollected because of antiquated laws. Lawmakers should look beyond the politics and pass legislation this year that positions the state to receive the sales taxes.
If lawmakers want to mitigate the tax load on Floridians, they can make the legislation "revenue neutral," meaning the added revenue from online sales tax collections will be offset by tax cuts in other areas. ...
Under federal law, online retailers without a physical presence in a state are not required to collect the sales taxes and remit them to those states. But there is a congressional effort to change that. The federal Marketplace Fairness Act has passed the U.S. Senate but is stuck in the House, where it faces tea party opposition. ...
Online sales are growing at a rapid rate. In North America, they topped $364 billion in 2012. They are expected this year to reach $1.3 trillion worldwide.
With the holiday season around the corner, the state's retailers can only watch as the out-of-state retailers offer the same merchandise online at lower prices, thanks to outdated state and federal laws.
That's not fair. Congress, and the Florida Legislature, should put self-interest aside and fix the law.
Gainesville (Fla.) Sun on federal budget talks:
For all our criticism of U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, he's right to be concerned about federal spending and the deficit.
But if the Gainesville Republican really is serious about addressing the issue, he must get over the notion that compromise is a bad thing.
The problem goes beyond Yoho. A bipartisan congressional committee needs to reach a budget deal by Dec. 13 to avoid another government shutdown early next year. Yet both sides are already entrenching themselves in the same tired positions that make compromise difficult.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that negotiations are "not going to get anywhere" if taxes become the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., declared there would be no deal without new revenue and dismissed any "happy talk" of a grand bargain that included entitlement reforms.
Everything should be on the table. In terms of taxes, Republicans at the very least must be open to closing loopholes that allow profitable corporations to avoid taxes. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and part of the congressional committee, has suggested eliminating offshore tax havens and tax breaks for oil companies and the pharmaceutical industry.
Yoho, in a recent Ocala Star-Banner column, said he's introducing legislation to address fraudulent tax returns that cost the treasury $5.2 billion. It's a worthy idea, but just a drop in the bucket compared to hundreds of millions spent on Social Security and Medicare.
As Yoho noted in the same column, the deficit actually dropped this year but will rise in the near future due to increases in spending on mandatory programs. ...
But if Yoho wants Congress to stop "kicking the can down the road," as he often says, it will take more than threats. It will take real compromise that involves both sides giving up something for the greater good.
Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner on 'Obamacare':
Amid the muddle of the Obamacare rollout has come a glint of clarity, courtesy of a Florida health insurance giant.
Florida Blue pointed out to the Miami Herald that, contrary to the claims of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, 300,000 of its policyholders will not "lose their individual coverage because of Obamacare."
"Now those people next year, they don't have health insurance," Rubio said.
In fact, no Florida Blue members will lose their coverage, company officials say. What they will lose are current insurance plans that don't meet the basic criteria of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Those criteria include coverage of pre-existing conditions as well as yearly and lifetime caps on out-of-pocket costs. ...
"We're not terminating anyone's coverage," said Jon Urbanek, Florida Blue's senior vice president of commercial markets.
"We're essentially going to go through a transition to qualified plans."
Most insurers and millions of individual policyholders — who make up about 5 percent of the market — face that same transition. Some of the plans will cost more than the policyholders are paying now, as Florida Blue officials noted, and some will cost less— depending on whether the members qualify for subsidies under Obamacare.
Florida Blue's clarification was a welcome respite from the misinformation and malfunctions swirling around the Obamacare enrollment period, which opened Oct. 1 ...
Of course, the Obamacare launch has also "turned out not to be so good," to put it mildly. The program's website, healthcare.gov, crashed on opening day. Like a struggling boxer, it has been up and down ever since.
Obama called for a "tech surge" to fix the system, and heavy hitters like Google and Oracle have been recruited to help.
We hope that Obamacare works because right now there's no better alternative for covering the 30 million uninsured Americans — and 80,000 right here in Marion County — that the program is intended to help ...