Sunday, December 10, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Trump budget cuts put Florida coast at risk

President Donald Trump is now saying the border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for will be paid for another way — by stripping away the defenses that protect Florida and the entire Gulf Coast from the threat of hurricanes, drug trafficking and natural disasters. This is one of the most irresponsible ideas from the new administration, and Congress should insist on a smarter approach that doesn't endanger national security in the guise of promoting it.

The cuts are contained in a budget for 2018 that Trump sent to Congress on Thursday. The blueprint would slash funding for three federal agencies that play a key role in protecting Florida. The $6 billion budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would be cut by at least $323 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency would lose $667 million from its $6 billion disaster relief fund. And while the budget documents Thursday made no specific mention of the Coast Guard, an earlier outline from the White House showed its $9 billion budget would be cut 14 percent.

Trump wants to redirect the money to help accomplish his campaign promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico. But the savings would come at the particular expense of the nation's third-largest state. Florida relies heavily on these three agencies to protect its shorelines, millions of people and billions of dollars in property. To their credit, both Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, are pushing back. Any marginal improvement that this money would have in securing the southern border would pale in comparison to the damage the cuts would cause to the nation's health and security across a much broader front.

The Coast Guard is America's first line of defense against drug, weapons and human trafficking. Last year, it responded to 16,343 rescue cases, saved 5,174 lives and seized more than 200 metric tons of cocaine. The Coast Guard also apprehended 6,346 illegal immigrants while patrolling U.S. waters and responded to dozens of hazardous incidents. Slashing its budget for a desert wall will only push traffickers to shift their criminal activities to sea.

NOAA, the storm-tracking agency, is best known in Florida for its hurricane-hunter missions that give millions of residents on the Gulf Coast early warnings that save lives and property. But beyond weather forecasting, NOAA plays a far broader role as the nation's lead science agency, from monitoring climate change to protecting coastal resources vital to the nation's health and economy. FEMA is the federal cleanup arm, helping people recover from natural disasters. After hurricanes Matthew and Hermine hit Florida last year, the agency paid out more than $100 million to state and local entities to help with recovery efforts.

These agencies need stable funding to be fully prepared to react. As the BP disaster showed, the nation's emergency response system can quickly be overtaken by an unexpected catastrophe. These cuts would undermine that level of readiness and only shift the threat from one part of the border to another.

The United States has many options beyond a wall for securing the border with Mexico, but the Coast Guard, NOAA and FEMA play critical and unique roles in protecting the Gulf Coast and the nation from both man-made and natural threats. Allowing a wall to cause a breach elsewhere in the nation's safety net makes no sense. And it's certainly a bad policy that endangers the people and economy of Florida.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17