Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for Feb. 19

Raise taxes on tobacco products

As a longtime smoker who finally quit 61/2 years ago, I know how hard it is to kick the habit. Now, tobacco companies have their sights on a new generation, and they market products that look a lot like candy to children. Two bills before the state Legislature will stop thousands of kids from using tobacco and prevent others from even starting.

House Bill 2493 and Senate Bill 6443 would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1 and close tax loopholes on other tobacco products, including cigars, chew and snuff. Higher taxes will keep tobacco out of the hands of kids.

An estimated 38,400 kids won’t even start smoking if taxes on tobacco are increased. And another 10 percent of kids who already smoke will quit because of it. We can also prevent 17,300 premature deaths related to smoking. Not only will an increase in tobacco taxes save lives, it will save the state over $850 million in health care costs in the long term. The revenue generated by these measures would fund programs to help those already addicted quit.

Tobacco companies spend $20 to market their product for every $1 the states spend to fight tobacco use. This is one simple way we can fight back to protect kids, save our state millions of dollars and prevent premature death.

CARA SHIPLEY, Olympia

Consumers can't take another tax increase

Although I appreciate the article by Rolf Boone “Real estate market faces ‘bumps,’ ” I have to say the prediction is not surprising. There will be many bumps in the road to come, and it isn’t only the real estate market.

The bumps I would welcome are the butts of politicians and government officials bouncing out of the office — officials whose sole purpose seems to be to stick it to the taxpayers, especially the homeowners who are trying to keep up with ever-increasing property taxes on their stagnant incomes — incomes much lower than the salaries of school superintendents ($100,000 a year) and many high-salaried teachers whose salaries ($40,000-$70,000) we help to pay. They keep pushing school levies on us, forcing us to sell our homes because we can’t afford the property taxes imposed by the levies. This is where most of our property taxes go. We can’t afford a new levy or even sustain the current ones. Seniors, or those on limited incomes, should be exempt.

Why can’t we elect people who really care whether we can pay our mortgages, our taxes, our utilities and our food bills? Why are local government officials building a super jail without knowing when and where to get the money to staff it? Why are state officials taking part in efforts to tax seniors out of their homes? Why are federal government officials doing so little to stop the ever-increasing home foreclosures across the country? Why do people vote the party and not the issue?

SAUNDRA JEAN RAYNOR, Olympia

Military voting system works

We can all agree that military and overseas voters deserve the best opportunity to cast a timely vote. However, systems in place need to be secure and verifiable. Senate Bill 6238 and House Bill 2483, which allow fax and e-mail of voted ballots , achieve neither. A more sensible approach would be to follow the new federal requirement providing for the electronic transmission of blank ballots, but not voted ballots.

First things first. E-mail voting is Internet voting. Last year, this paper raised legitimate concerns about Internet voting. The February 15, 2009, editorial on Internet voting said, “Before lawmakers pass any legislation, they must ensure that any Internet voting system in this state undergo vigorous examination, testing and certification before it’s put into place.”

This type of vigorous examination prior to implementation of the law is nowhere in the current bill. An independent examination by top computer scientists in 2004 of an Internet voting pilot program established by the Pentagon led to the termination of the program because of security concerns. Subsequent studies affirm this conclusion.

The proposed law assigns county auditors the responsibility to ensure online voting systems are secure. County auditors should not be expected to succeed where cybersecurity experts who advise the Pentagon have not.

This system is working for 99 percent of military and overseas voters.

It is important to continue to make improvements, but let’s not fix a system that isn’t broken by jeopardizing the very votes we are seeking to protect.

HOLLY JACOBSON - Executive Director, VoterAction.org

The haves versus the have nots

I would like to see an accurate statistical analysis of the number and percentage of people voting against health care reform who have health insurance and who can afford the care of their family members versus the percentage of people voting for health care reform because they have little or no health insurance and they and/or their families cannot afford health care.

MELISSA SOUZA, Tumwater

Single-payer health system needed

The letter in favor of a single-payer health care system was right on the mark.

Most Americans want a single-payer system, yet are not even given the choice. Big corporations — big banks and big insurance companies — control both political parties and make the laws to suit themselves.

The people need to take back the power that rightfully belongs to them. The current system is broken. One-third of the health care dollars are going to pay insurance company lawyers and accountants — covering fewer sick or poor people while maximizing premiums.

David Cook, Olympia

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