RE THE DEC. 17 letter

"Tax Amnesty a Costly Proposition":

These are extraordinary times as we face at least a $31 million deficit for next year. We must do everything possible to avert any police or firefighter layoffs, or the disruption of other essential city services.

Tax amnesty programs have been highly successful tools used by numerous municipal and state governments throughout the U.S. to generate quick and substantial revenues - while cleaning up tax-delinquent databases.

Phoenix, a city comparable in size to Philadelphia, collected 40 percent of outstanding tax obligations, or $3.2 million of $8 million owed. It anticipated just a 25 percent collection rate.

Oakland, Calif., was owed $2 million for parking, hotel, real estate, business and rent taxes and ended up collecting $1.7 million. Its goal was 35 percent. San Jose, Calif., provided an amnesty for business taxes only and almost doubled its goal by collecting $1.25 million, a 10 percent rate.

New Jersey's collection of more than $700 million in the last year made it one of the most successful tax amnesty programs in the nation. Its success was due in part to an aggressive campaign that included 600,000 notices sent to taxpayers and a Web site that let people quickly pay their delinquencies.

Our state legislature recently adopted a tax amnesty to collect the $1.6 billion in outstanding taxes. According to Auditor General Jack Wagner, it is expected to generate $160 million, or 10 percent of outstanding collections. The state is relying on these funds to balance its current budget.

Philadelphia implemented a tax amnesty in 1986 that collected $25 million of $86 million owed (29 percent). This rate today would generate more than $100 million. While effective tax collection must be an ongoing part of city government, an amnesty is a unique chance for delinquents to come forward and pay up.

I thank Councilwoman Joan Krajewski for introducing the tax amnesty legislation, and I commend City Council for taking quick action and unanimously passing this legislation.

Alan Butkovitz

Controller

City of Philadelphia

Destination: Danger

So, there was a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit that had an alleged terrorist on board. A few passengers told TV news that the situation was kind of "scary." Scary? The plane was scheduled to land in Detroit!

Mayer Krain

Philadelphia

Life of Brian

Brian Westbrook, please retire. Life is much more important than football.

Matt Engel

Wilkes-Barre, Pa.