The whole tooth
To the editor:
In an effort to avoid mass hysteria and bring reason and science to the forefront, we would like to address some of the most extreme comments made by the opponents in your recent article regarding fluoridation of Louisiana’s water systems [“There’s something in the water,” Jan. 13].
First, opponents often imply that relatively small amounts of fluoride are toxic. However, an average-sized man [155 pounds] would have to drink at least 625 gallons of water at one time before the fluoride becomes toxic. Irrational and inflammatory comments to the contrary do a horrible disservice to those who are truly seeking sound information and guidance on the safe uses of fluoride.
Second, we believe it is equally irresponsible to assert that “we’re just flying blind” and that there is not enough scientific data on public water fluoridation. How then does one account for the literally hundreds of studies that overwhelmingly show the proven benefits far outweigh the perceived risks—not to mention the fact that communities across America have been safely fluoridating their systems for more than 60 years?
Finally, we find it disingenuous of the opponents to claim supporters of community water fluoridation are “worried about legal liability” or that they include those who have “the most to gain by selling it.” Supporters of water fluoridation include virtually every dentist and pediatric medical profession in the country. Some of the leading organizations in support include the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, American Dental Association, American Hospital Association and dozens of other well-respected groups and organizations. Not one of these groups or individuals stands to gain a cent by their support of community water fluoridation. It is simply ludicrous to imply that their support is based on financial considerations or out of the fear of lawsuits.
As your article pointed out, Louisiana lags behind the rest of the country in affording its citizens the benefits of community water fluoridation with East Baton Rouge Parish as the largest piece missing from the puzzle. Your continued attention to factual details will play a great role in encouraging our leaders to “tap into a healthier smile.”
Robert E. Barsley, Professor, LSU Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry
Maurice B. “Marty” Garrett, President, Louisiana Dental Association
The old homestead
To the editor:
Thank you for stating clearly what should be obvious to the numerous folks who believe raising the homestead exemption from $75K will automatically reduce their property tax bill [Daily Report, Feb. 4]. We already have numerous areas in the state that essentially pay no property tax. Thus, services in those areas are already disproportionately paid for by taxpayers in other, wealthier areas.
I am not necessarily in favor of further taxing lower income individuals and families that happen to live in homes with assessed values at or below the current exemption, but doing the opposite and increasing the exemption will further push more affluent [and generally higher educated] residents to flee the state. While the remaining residents might feel smug at paying a lower tax bill, the feeling will be short-lived given the longer-term damage to the state. As a transplant to Louisiana [10 years and counting], this place never ceases to amaze me.
I am reminded of Ben Franklin’s quote: “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
D. Andrew Owens, Baton Rouge
To the editor:
I’ve never understood why people in this state seem hell-bent on raising the homestead exemption. For one thing, most of us can deduct property taxes from our federal income tax [those of us who itemize], and Louisiana has some of the most shamefully low property taxes in the country while our sales taxes are unbelievably high.
How about we start reducing our sales tax? As an added bonus, reducing sales tax reduces Internet shopping, out-of-state shopping and allows people to buy more at local retail establishments, thus helping stimulate the economy by helping businesses sell more goods. I once lived in Pennsylvania where there is no tax on non-luxury clothing items. The end result, Pennsylvania has one of the largest shopping malls in America and is a destination for shopping.
[Former Rep. Vic] Stelly actually had it right if the Legislature would have gone forward with Step Two instead of repealing Step One. Step One was raise some people’s state income tax a little in a swap for removing the state tax on groceries. Step Two was to examine the actual revenue outcome and then reduce sales taxes further beyond the reduction we saw on grocery items in 2002. Everyone got so caught up in the income piece, they forgot that they would actually come out ahead and the economy would do better if we reduced sales tax on things like clothing or household appliances or furniture or the hundreds of things on which we’re forced to pay a whopping 9% tax.
Susan Nelson, Baton Rouge
To the editor:
I am surprised that 60% of your readers think the homestead exemption should be increased. No one likes to pay taxes, but without these taxes the public coffers will not be able to supply those needs we want and need. Without tax dollars, how will we ever build the education system that is essential to meet the needs of our community and our employers? Who is going to pay for our roads and sewer system and our law enforcement if we reduce our tax base?
Maybe we don’t have the vision to become a great city.
Bill Jolly, Baton Rouge
To the editor:
I believe all of this is a part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s master plan [“Random Thoughts,” Feb. 10]. Jindal has released his legislative priorities for the upcoming session, and from what I see he is tackling the toughest [and most limiting] issue we’ve had in adequately addressing the state’s budget—protected funds.
Because so much of Louisiana’s budget is “untouchable,” there are only a few places that must absorb budget shortfalls. The worst-case budget cut for all of higher ed is because these protected funds cannot be cut as revenue shrinks. Therefore, the unprotected parts of the budget must absorb much more than their proportional share.
These protected funds are a major problem, and I think that Jindal is on the right track to change that. After all, we are only a state government and do not have the luxury of printing more currency as needed.
Billy L. Clark, Baton Rouge
To the editor:
This state is way behind on two-year education, which is much less costly and badly needed to upgrade and keep our labor force here in Louisiana. We probably have among [if not the] highest four-year university enrollment per capita, and among the lowest two-year university enrollment per capita, in the nation. By reducing the number of four-year students [and institutions], while increasing the number of two-year students, we will expand our badly needed workforce and save money that can in turn be used to fund excellence at the remaining four-year institutions. We may be spending enough money on higher education, but not in the right way. Only parochial politics gets in the way of doing the right thing for Louisiana.
David Claypool, Baton Rouge