Cigarette tax hike puts unfair burden of state's smokers...


March 13, 2002

Cigarette tax hike puts unfair burden of state's smokers

It was with a growing sense of horror that I read the editorial "Double dividend" (March 5).

It isn't the role of government, state or local, to impose tariffs on legal behavior, including cigarette smoking. To add insult, this tax would effect the poorest two-thirds of the state population by an overwhelming margin during a recession.

The tax's alleged goal is to prevent sales to under-age buyers. Would The Sun consider fining youths caught purchasing cigarettes $1,000 instead? Or their parents? I doubt it. Would it be a far more potent deterrent? Of course.

The Bill of Rights was designed, in part, to protect unpopular speech. The same spirit should be applied to unpopular, legal behavior. I am confident James Madison and other framers of the Constitution would have agreed.

A majority cannot be allowed to confiscate the hard-earned money of a minority simply because of its disapproval of a decision by the minority to use a legal product.

P.J. Ottenritter


Those who help handicapped must get their meager raises

After several years of squandering a billion-dollar surplus, money was finally put into the 2003 budget to help close the gap between state workers and the community workers who care for the handicapped and developmentally disabled.

The legislation was passed last year, but these people had to wait a year for their raises. And now, with a huge budget deficit on the horizon thanks to profligate spending by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his tax-and-spend Democrats, there is a chance the money will be stripped from the budget. Meanwhile, the governor's favorite programs have been fully funded.

This is shameful. If there is a shred of decency and fair play left in the hearts of state legislators, they will see that these vital workers get their meager raises.

Harry R. Shriver


Schaefer helped create state university system

I find myself in the odd position of complaining about an omission in my own article ("First, Maryland had to get an attitude," March 3).

In the article, I noted the significance of the 1988 legislation creating the University System of Maryland. This legislation transformed public higher education in Maryland and set us on the path toward excellence.

In concentrating on the year the legislation was adopted, I failed to note the critical role played by former Gov. William Donald Schaefer. But Mr. Schaefer made the issue of improving Maryland's public higher education a major part of his successful 1986 campaign. Without his vigorous support, it is doubtful the 1988 legislation would have passed.

Donald N. Langenberg


The writer is chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

TV news should feature more blacks and women

I am a professional African-American female who would like to see more representation and positive role models for my peers. Yet The Sun's article "Fewer black reporters are on TV news" (March 4) notes that whites reported 88 percent of the stories on the network evening news programs in 2001 and men reported 75 percent of those stories.

I doubt 75 percent of those stories related to issues about white men, and I'm pretty sure some of those stories could have been better captured by a minority reporter who could feel a closer connection to the issue.

It is rather alarming that the media can portray images of white women (models and actresses) who damage the self-esteem of my white counterparts but that the images of professional minorities who can promote positive self-esteem are not adequately portrayed in the media.

To promote the self-esteem of minority and female youth in this country, we must provide them with the opportunity to see someone who represents them.

Nedra Davis


Tariffs merely offset foreign steel subsidies

Everyone who has criticized the Bush administration's imposition of tariffs on imported steel fails to mention that foreign steel manufacturers have been benefiting for years from subsidies from their governments ("Tariffs no cure for steel industry," March 8). This of course allows them to sell their steel at cheaper prices.

For U.S. steel companies to compete, they would have to either lower the quality of their products or reduce the wages and benefits they pay. (Imagine the outcry from organized labor if that occurred.)

If it's in the best interest of America to have a vibrant steel industry, these tariffs will level the playing field by canceling out the subsidies that allow foreign companies to sell so cheaply.

Michael Ries


Commission's view of Florida vote is disputed

Allan J. Lichtman's column "Race was big factor in ballot rejection" (Opinion * Commentary, March 5) performs a useful service in revealing the partisan zeal and disregard for the facts that rendered useless the U.S. Civil Rights Commission's report on Florida's 2000 election.

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