Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Trump budget cuts put Florida coast at risk

RECOMMENDED READING


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.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17