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Letter to the editor: Tax should be appropriated by state

 

It has been a long-standing policy that dollars generated by a state tax of any kind are placed in the general fund and appropriated by the state Legislature to fund the essential functions of government.

Don’t let the emotions of the smoking issue cloud the facts of this measure. This will not magically stop people from using tobacco products. It will cause them to spend more, or look to cheaper vendors such as reservations to purchase their products. A 400 percent increase is, in my opinion, excessive. But that is not the issue when it comes to good tax policy. The issue of where the money goes and how it will be spent is the heart and soul of this issue.

The measure is designed to send money to basically two areas. Veterans services and behavioral health. These areas were picked specifically to generate advocates for the measure. These are worthy causes, but causes that are already funded at some level by state programs. This money - approximately $35 million per year per organization - will bypass the legislative appropriation process and will be handed over to an unelected, appointed board. How will they spend the money? The measure is silent on that issue. That is just plain bad public policy.

Any state tax should be collected, budgeted, appropriated and spent by the state. It should be analyzed and prioritized. There should be public hearings and input from all interested parties. None of these are found in Measure 4. The state already funds millions of dollars on programs dealing with tobacco addiction. This measure expands a tax, sends dollars to groups that are not accountable for their spending of the dollars, and especially troubling, no definable results or benefits for the dollars spent. That is just plain bad public policy and a recipe for problems. Vote no on Measure 4.

Carlson, a Republican, represents District 41 and is House majority leader in the North Dakota Legislature.

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