The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 7, 1997 · Page 89
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 89

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 7, 1997
Page 89
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Sunday, December 7, 1997 The Palm Beach Post SECTION E opinio; The Peacemaker is a Hollywood thriller. But the knowledge, material and opportunity for terrorists to make bombs here is real. i p - f -jf t ' r ' -" - " . if - A scene of urban terror from Peacemaker. The premise of this fall's blockbuster film is far less unlikely than viewers may believe. in thisf streets f flsiivfiirGii Randy Schultz Tax dodge: The state plays along .' You may have seen them on TV. Perhaps you've heard them on the radio. They seem to be everywhere, those upbeat ads touting the benefits to education from the Florida Lottery. Greed has never seemed so honorable and civic-minded. ; "When you play," the announcer chirps, "we all win." The ads explain that the Saturday-night-drawing lottery with the $7 million minimum payoff and its lower-budget cousins have contributed $8 billion to universities, community colleges and public Schools since 1988. The money part is true. By law, 38 percent of all revenue from ticket sales goes to schools and universities, with schools getting more. Less truthful is the "we all win" part, although since most lottery players lose, maybe lottery officials intend that to be an all-purpose consolation prize. In fact, the lottery does not provide the "enhancement" its backers promised. The lottery, as several lawmakers noted during the Legislature's special session last month, has become a tax. ' . After the lottery began in 1988, legislators began cutting back on the amount of money they gave to education in the state budget. So school districts started using the lottery money for operating expenses, such as teacher salaries. When the ads show happy kids in a classroom, chances are they should be learning on state money, not lottery revenue. State-run gambling as salvation When school districts depend on money for recurring, basic expenses, that money becomes a tax. Gov. Chiles and state lawmakers have known this. It's just been Uncomfortable to discuss because Floridians mistakenly believe the lottery can somehow Eay for education' without government . -aving to raise ... taxes. ' . 1 i ! " - Any lingering pretense, however, vanished during the special session. The Legislature passed and Gov. Chiles signed a bill under which the state will use the public schools' share of lottery money to sell bonds for construction. Again, building new schools is not an "enhancement"; it's a necessity. In fast-growing counties such as Palm Beach and St. Lucie, it's a recurring necessity. " 3 But House Speaker Daniel Webster refused to consider any new "taxes" for construction, despite the 17,000 portable classrooms throughout the state. The most sensible plan would have been to expand the gross receipts "tax" on phone and electric bills that finances school construction. A special commission recommended including cable TV, water and sewer. Given Florida's steady growth, the enhanced "tax" would be a very reliable source of money. ; Gov. Chiles probably would have supported that change. The Republican leader of the Senate, Toni Jennings, doesn't flinch from a "tax" when it's needed. No , way, said Republican leaders in the House. . - So Mr. Webster, whom the Christian Coalition supports, signed off the only alternative, a plan that will make state-run gambling even more important to Florida's future. No matter how much he refuses to acknowledge it, lawmakers and the governor have made the lottery a "tax." Lottery created out of false hope So those ads need to be rewritten. They need to say, "If you don't play, we're in trouble." The Legislature's plan requires $180 million a year in lottery revenue. Since the state will sell bonds, there will be bondholders. If the lottery doesn't produce that $180 million a year, the state will be unable to make payments, and the bondholders will be very unhappy. I Presumably, the Legislature could make up any shortage with money from the state budget. But lawmakers also promised to make up the lottery money school districts won't be getting for salaries. That money has to come from the state budget. This is a 30-year plan. When a recession hits, the bondholders will have to get their money. You wonder, however, if the Legislature will keep that promise to the school districts. So the ads are misleading, but you can't blame the folks who run the lottery. They didn't create the stupid thing. We did. We created it because of our fond wish that somebody anybody except us pay the bills. We created it because we like to think that buying five tickets a week somehow can provide adequate education in a state of more than 14 million people. The odds of that happening are as good as the odds that you actually will "win" by playing the lottery. If nothing else, however, the lawmakers who got tired of listening to questions like "What happened to the lottery money?" can be happy. Finally, they have an answer. They can say: "We made it into a tax. And you're paying it." B Randy Schultz is editor of the editorial page of The Palm Beach Post. Comments about the Opinion section may be sent to him at But although the odds of a strategic nuclear ; ; attack may have disappeared along with the former Soviet Union, the possibility that a rogue state or terrorist organization will use weapons of mass destruction in some unconscionable act has, if anything, increased. The growing threat, say physicists and mem- ' bers of Congress and the intelligence community, is the result of the convergence of four key developments: the proliferation of knowledge about how to construct such weapons; the increasing amount of fissile material; the deterioration of the security systems protecting that material; and the changing! face of international terrorism. ; Please see TERR0RISM5E pect and far more possible than government experts and scientists want the public to know. "I could build a 15-kiloton bomb in my kitchen certainly powerful enough to kill a million people in the middle of Manhattan," says Ted Taylor, one of the chief weapons designers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory during the days when it was still the primary design facility for U.S. nuclear weapons. Mr. Taylor is now a professor at Princeton, and like many who have worked in the nuclear field, he's gravely concerned about the prospects of a real-life Peacemaker scenario. A decade after the Berlin Wall's collapse and the dismantling of the Soviet military-industrial complex, Americans bask in the belief that the specter of nuclear destruction is but a vanquished demon. By John Leifer This fall's blockbuster movie The Peacemaker pits Nicole Kidman and George Clooney against a Bosnian terrorist headed for New York City with a grudge against the West and a backpack full of nukes. The duo's desperate attempts to prevent the bomb-toting villain from pulverizing the Big Apple make for an over-the-top, nail-biting thriller. But although Hollywood has taken its usual artistic license with the film, The Peacemaker's central premise is less implausible than viewers may sus- John Leifer is a consultant and writer living in Kansas City, Kan. Reprinted by permission from The Washington Monthly. FACING FLORIDA'S GROWTH s Lesson of the day: Beware of despots J By Robert E. Thompson ' S The 56th anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on! Pearl Harbor is a grim reminder of the havoc that the, ruthless leader of an aggressor nation can wreak upon " innocent victims. , ". That attack, ordered by Japan's Premier Hideki , Tojo, catapulted the United States into history's most devastating war, a two-ocean conflict that put this nation's genius and courage to their greatest test. Whea it ended nearly four years later, the human toll for ';, ; ( -fit' ; America had been more than 400,000; killed and nearly 700,000 wounded, Saddam Hussein's belligerency- and duplicity in the face of United Nations efforts to discover his weap ons of mass destruction make the lesson especially timely. Like such" long-ago tyrants as Tojo in Japan, - Adolf Hitler in Germany, Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union and Benito Mus- solini in Italy, Hussein puts little val-l ue on human life. ) His decision to erect walls of hn-! I ' .,. . I Tojo BOB SHANLEY1996 STAFF FILE PHOTO Environmental activist Nat Reed relaxes on the patio of his home along the Indian River on Jupiter Island. State needs more than 1000 Friends to keep Eden from vanishing forever By Nathaniel P. Reed partially filled for instant land, then buried under the pollution coming off the streets of West Palm Beach and its suburbs and the foul runoff of the C-51 Canal. Before I became chairman of the department that evolved into Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, the lake was also fouled by raw sewage. My Indian River is not the same as it was when, as a kid, I waded the grass flats and oyster bars in search of sea trout and snook. The amount of green space that separated community from community has been dramatically reduced as a flood of people arrived and are still arriving. The nation's economy is so strong that a new wave of retirees who want relief from Please see REED5 manity around possible military targets is a brutal demonstration of his cruelty. Those walls are construct-' ed of Iraqi men, women and children mortared together" only by Hussein's treachery and his obsession with self- glorification. J The bully of Baghdad does not possess the military ! power to fight another war, as he did in 1991, with ! major nations. But he presumably does possess chemi- cal, biological and possibly nuclear weapons with which to destroy vast segments of humanity. ' ' The current confrontation, therefore, is far more 1 perilous than the one six years ago, when a remarkable coalition of allies, brought together by then-President George Bush, prevented Hussein from taking control of oil-rich Kuwait. Phase see TYRANTSgg Robert E. Thompson is a columnist for Hearst New papers. ..... ' .' .. i ij ' I would like to explore the dilemma that confronts you, me, the people of Florida, the government of Florida it's called growth! Last week, I was busy in New York City for four days. It was cold in New York, really cold and windy. When I stepped off the plane in West Palm Beach last Sunday noon, it was like stepping back into Eden. No matter that the Eden I grew up in is largely gone. The miles of snow-white beaches have high-rise condominiums looming over them. Crystal-clear Lake Worth was Nathaniel P. Reed ofHobe Sound was assistant secretary of the interior and is founder of 1000 Friends of Florida. This article is excerpted from a speech he gave Nov. 18 in Lost Tree Village to 1000 Friends. I

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