Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 21, 2003

Raise revenue to fund schools and social needs

C. Fraser Smith's column "Moving from promises to character in tax debate" (Opinion Commentary, Dec. 14) contends that "taxpayers will turn on anyone who dares to raise taxes" and cites examples from states where constituents turned down tax hikes.

I would like to point out that in other states the debate about whether to cut services or raise taxes has turned out quite differently. For example, the New York state legislature recently voted to raise taxes (this in a state where Republicans dominate the Senate).

People in New York stressed to their legislators that additional cuts to programs such as public education, funding for fire departments and children's health insurance were not acceptable.

Many Marylanders are stressing that same point of view. Annapolis has been flooded with petitions and postcards asking the governor and General Assembly to examine all revenue options to fully fund public education without further cuts to other important services.

Polls cited in the column send a similar message: Many Marylanders agree that raising taxes is an agreeable way to deal with the state's deficit.

Given the governor's promise to fully fund the Thornton legislation, with or without slots, and the General Assembly's commitment to Thornton, the only reasonable approach at this point is for them to work together to find a revenue solution.

Sue Fothergill

Baltimore

Meet state's deficit by cutting the budget

The poll taken for WYPR-FM by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies and used by C. Fraser Smith to purport that "a majority of Marylanders, 53 percent, would accept a penny more on the sales tax" appears to be slanted to produce a desired result ("Moving from promises to character in tax debate," Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 14).

The poll question notes that "increasing the state sales tax by one penny would raise an additional $500 million per year." Not only was it technically inaccurate by leaving out the word rate after "state sales tax," but the psychology of using the term "one penny" serves to minimize the increase in the ear of the person polled.

Why not state the proposition more honestly as "increasing the sales tax 20 percent would raise $500 million?" Would that change the response?

The question also suggested "increasing the income tax rate on upper-income households could raise several hundred million dollars per year." But it offered no definition of "upper-income." The implication is that this would be a tax on the wealthy, but would that group include two teachers earning $80,000 with two children?

Maybe the question should have been: "Since Maryland's budget increased by 60 percent over eight years (from approximately $13 billion to $21 billion), do you think the state could reduce spending by 5 percent ($1 billion) this year to cover the more than $700 million deficit?"

I would say yes.

Geary Foertsch

Lutherville

Sanctifying marriage isn't a federal role

How fascinating that President Bush, a Republican, announced support of a constitutional amendment to ban states from allowing gay people to marry ("Bush backs amendment on marriage," Dec. 17). I had thought Republicans opposed federal interference with states.

There must be a federal issue here, I thought. So I read further, and was even more amazed that Mr. Bush's rationale is that state rulings allowing gay marriage "undermine the sanctity of marriage." Since when was our federal government in the business of preserving sanctification?

I thought that was a role reserved for fundamentalist theocracies such as the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan.

Well, live and learn.

Laurie S. Coltri

Columbia

Best punishment for Hussein is exile

Many people, including our president, favor execution for the Butcher of Baghdad ("Bush says Hussein deserves execution," Dec. 17). But while the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein certainly warrant some form of extreme retribution, current Islamic world opinion is such that execution would be a signal for his martyrdom and a cause for violent anti-American demonstrations worldwide.

Perhaps a strategy that includes exile for Mr. Hussein would be more appropriate. In exile, isolation would be the butcher's only companion if communications are cut.

Exile for a person who has enjoyed being top dog would be insufferable. The only outlook would be death.

Over time, the memory of the him would diminish in the Islamic world and attention directed to more pressing needs.

James M. Hall

Baltimore

Dean isn't derailed by Hussein's capture

With the exception of Howard Dean, Democratic candidates are behaving like deer caught in the headlights, transfixed by the absurd notion that the capture of Saddam Hussein somehow justifies the war ("Democratic rivals clobber Dean on foreign policy," Opinion Commentary, Dec. 17).

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