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Our readers speak out

Smokers taxed to pay everybody's bill The tobacco taxes are not fair. To start off, we will say that the governor and the Legislature may not like our opinion, but this is America, so we have a right to our opinion. As tobacco users, we have a strong opinion about the increase in cigarette and tobacco taxes. Why should we tobacco users be singled out as a minority to pay added taxes that are going to give breaks to those making over $70,000?

We are only engaging in a perfectly legal activity. Are we second-class citizens or just somebody the governor and Legislature used to pay a tax nobody else has to pay? We don't mind paying our share of taxes, but we shouldn't have to pay for others, too.

We do not believe 22 percent of the population should be picked out to pay for the current deficit. If these people think this is fairness, we wonder what they have been smoking. We also don't know how they can be proud Montanans, knowing that Gov. Martz promised no new taxes. If her words mean nothing, sooner or later, no one else's word will mean anything either.

Think about it!

Harold and Wenona Adams


Higher tobacco tax will improve health I am writing to emphasize the valuable positive aspects of a higher tobacco tax. I have seen letters to the editor focusing on smokers' anger and retailers' frustration. I haven't seen anything about the improvement in health we can expect from an increased tax. Since the Legislature passed the 52 cents a pack increase, Montana's tobacco tax is now average compared to the other 49 states. Tobacco was under-taxed, considering the deadly diseases caused by tobacco use.

In case some folks are still unaware, tobacco use kills more than 1,400 Montanans each year, more than any other preventable cause of death. That is equal to about four people every day dying from emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and other diseases due to use of this incredibly addictive product.

The Montana Legislature's increase in the tobacco tax is minimal compared to some other states such as New York, which taxes cigarettes at $1.50 a pack. As some of you may have read, the current tax increase has already helped some people quit using tobacco. Previously, 2,000 kids started using tobacco each year in Montana; however, the tax increase will discourage some of those kids from starting this year and in the future. In fact, based upon research findings from other states, the National Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids predicts that with a 52 cents increase in Montana's tax, 1,900 children alive today will be saved from premature smoking-caused deaths. Saving hundreds of lives just by raising the tobacco tax by 52 cents seems a wise investment to me.

Catherine Dratz


Tax incentive to quit unhealthy tobacco habit There was a recent article in the paper about smokers being very upset about the current tobacco tax increase. There was one specific reference to folks grumbling "about it being time to quit." Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this really a bad thing? Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Montana. It is a proven fact that a significant tobacco tax increase will always decrease use among the adult population as well as prevent thousands of youth from ever starting. Nicotine dependence is a very powerful addiction. Maybe this tax increase will be enough of an incentive for some to overcome it.

Kim Kaiser


Tax hike may inspire smokers to quit This letter is in response to a May 5 article titled "Smokers fume over tax hike." In this article a handful of the smoking population gripes about the additional 52 cents tobacco tax increase recently signed into law. Most said that the increase would not change their smoking habits and added that they would "simply switch to a cheaper brand of cigarettes." That may be true. Tobacco taxes are purported to have major health benefits because many people decide to quit smoking when the price is increased. I realize it is very difficult to quit because of the addictive nature of commercial tobacco products. However, if only a few people's lives are saved due to a tobacco price increase, then the tax is totally worth it for Montana's citizens. I saw a chart recently that showed how the risk of lung cancer is reduced dramatically with each year after a smoker quits. Statistics show that more than 80 percent of smokers would like to quit or have even tried to quit. The tobacco tax is one more incentive for smokers to save their own lives.

Anthony Herrera


State needs jobs in oil, gas development I'd like to see an argument for responsible development of oil and gas resources in this area.

Rick Graetz's guest editorial (May 10 Gazette) reflects opinions of non-native Montanans who are innate environmentalists and jet-setters here only for their notion of "getting away from it all," while demanding all the accouterments of city life on our dime. They contribute nothing positive to Montana because their attitudes and financial power contribute to loss of jobs and inflate real estate prices respectively.

Locking up Montana for their own pleasure reflects the selfishness of these attitudinal leeches.

If the size of the resource field is as insignificant as he claims, prevailing oil and gas leases wouldn't be in place. If Max Baucus was as mindful of jobs for Montanans as he claims to be, he wouldn't be such a vigorous roadblock to development of jobs for Montanans.

Money talks.

Ethel Brost


Agriculture remains backbone of economy It was refreshing to me to know that economic benefits of charitable nonprofit organizations in the state of Wyoming between 1990 and 2000 have been increasing faster than any industry including agriculture, according to the May 6 Gazette article.

Pursuing happiness and bettering our lives is part of our culture, and most people strive for that. If we can afford to help others to achieve their dreams, this, in turn, helps us to model our selves after Christ's teachings.

My husband Rick and I are farmers, and we love our life. Dedicated farmers and ranchers improve our well being. This is one of the reasons that made it possible for our people and America to be very generous toward poor and needy inside of our country and abroad.

The economic impact of agriculture is well over $1 billion annually, according to the Wyoming agriculture statistics, and provides over 17,000 jobs.

According to research by the Landell Mills Commodities Studies Inc., like all Americans, Wyoming consumers pay 32 percent less (for food) than consumers in other developed nations. The sugar industry alone provides over 6,480 jobs in Wyoming. The 580 sugar farmers in Wyoming spent $46.2 million producing beets on 62,000 acres. The three factories that process the sugar beets in Wyoming pay $289,000 in property taxes per year. This is the benefit of just one crop in the state of Wyoming.

As long as we have farmers, we will continue to provide jobs for 24 million workers in America and $1.3 trillion to our gross domestic product. We export more than $50 billion in products that help feed people in countries around the world.

Klodette Stroh, President

Park and Bighorn County WIFE

Powell, Wyo.

Bush's deficit plans will hurt U.S. workers The rich eagerly await President Bush's tax cuts like fat, greedy children await handouts of chocolate and candy from an irresponsible parent. Despite the fact that the previous tax cuts have cost millions of jobs and (in combination with other Bush-driven events) replaced a government surplus with government deficits that will last far into the future, our leaders continue to spoonfeed their corporate offspring at any cost while the working class remains starving and neglected, slowly fading away. Nevertheless, King George desires favor among the wealthiest members of his court. His ability to rationalize surpassed his ability to reason a long, long time ago.

Rod Gottula


Bad timing on story of Leachman Cattle In reference to an April 24 article, we thought a vendor's perspective may be enlightening about the Leachman family and their cattle business. Our farming partnership has been selling and delivering forage products worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Leachman Cattle Co. every year since 1986.

It would seem to us that featuring a front page story denigrating the operation during the crucial annual cattle sale was ill advised to say the least. Buyers had come from literally all over the world to Billings to take in this renowned event, and one would have expected the wholehearted support of the community. It was certainly not the kind of story that you would want your buyers to take in with their morning cup of coffee. Although it may be hard to quantify what damage may have occurred from running the story then, it was not the kind of publicity anyone connected with the business appreciated.

Obviously, Leachman Cattle Co. is not the only cattle enterprise that has struggled over the last few years. The prolonged drought, high feed prices and economic uncertainty have taken their toll on many agricultural enterprises - especially those who are invested as heavily in various aspects of the cattle industry as are the Leachmans. However, through the good times and bad over the last 20 years, we have found the representatives of the Leachmans to be honest, loyal and trusting. The managers we have dealt with have been professional and have honored their agreements. Has it been a struggle at times? You bet. Would the Leachmans likely change a few decisions if they could do it again? Absolutely. Join the crowd. But when we consider what they have contributed to the cattle industry and economy as a whole, the least we should do is "try to do no harm" as they work through this difficult time in their business.

Sherwin, Greg and Andy Leep

Leep Hay & Grain Partnership


Fight federal control of wildlife management Federal encroachment into the state's wildlife management amounts to federal tyranny and needs to be stopped now! Their interference with our grizzly bear management and their interest in the lynx cat and the wolverine serve as examples. Now they bring us the wolf. Well, enough is enough!

We must insist that the feds be restrained by the law. The 10th Amendment to the Constitution states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Now, if the federal government can demonstrate or prove that they have a delegated power to manage the resident game species in any of the many states, then let them do so. If they can't, then that task must, by law, fall to the states or to the people.

If the foregoing is correct, and we are sure that it is, then you are at liberty to tell the feds what they can do with their list, the wolf and their entire unconstitutional Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act is a gigantic power grab by the government and an abuse of private property rights and should have been scrapped even before the introduction of wolves.

The feds can't be expected to give in without a fight, so it might help to enlist the several Western states, their governors and wildlife agencies. Start a crusade, go to the courts, do whatever you need to do to get this wolf situation under control.

Wolf management is no management.

Wolves in Montana should be made a predator just as the coyote is.

Mr. and Mrs. C.D. Getz


Mr. and Mrs. Ray Wright


Good trustee choices, bad levy decisions The Gazette may have been wrong in its recommendations as to who should be elected to the School Board, but it is eminently correct in lauding the vote of the people for Katharin Kelker and Karen Moses. If I were an educator, I would certainly give those who voted an 'A+' for their selection. (Wait a minute! I guess I am an educator. I did spend 33 years at Rocky Mountain College training young people as teachers and for other professions as well. And I did, through many of those years, work closely with the Office of Public Instruction on matters of teacher certification. Furthermore, I served one term on the District 2 School Board.)

I am afraid that I will have to give an 'F' for the refusal to pass the high school and the elementary technology levies. While my seven children have already graduated from Billings Senior and I have no grandchildren in the Billings school system, I am nevertheless concerned that Billings have the best schools possible. This involves well-paid and well-trained teachers, up-to-date textbooks and teaching materials, and it involves the best technology available. By refusing to provide the funds necessary for these things the Billings voter has said, in effect, "we don't need to teach and train our students for the current job market, much less for the jobs of the future." So we give them an 'F' for failure to be sensitive to the needs of modern education.

And, while I am at it. The registered voters of Billings deserve no more than a 'D-' for their turnout at this election. As I indicated above, I have no personal interest in the schools at this time in my life. I do have an interest in the development of a good economy and an attractive community which is inviting to those who would bring jobs here. Our schools are a part of what makes this the Magic City.

James R. Taylor


Breaks boundaries must be changed Mike Penfold's criticism of Congressman Rehberg's bill to remove the private property from the Missouri monument is a poorly considered complaint and his commentary in The Billings Gazette doesn't square with ranchers in the Breaks.

The Antiquities Act makes no provision for the BLM to go on a private land shopping spree any time a national monument is declared. In fact, the act only authorizes the president to declare monuments on lands owned by the government.

The BLM says these are private properties that have been or could be for sale, and they want to acquire them. Sorry, the law makes no provisions for private land to be included in a monument simply because it might be for sale someday. And, there is no authority to use private property to form part of the outer boundary of a monument.

Congress needs to be involved and serve as watchdog on this monument business because it is a process that has gotten terribly out of control. Our Constitution designates Congress as the sole authority over federal land. Maybe Congress ought to decide whether 81,000 acres of private land should be included in a national monument, particularly when there are tax-base implications or revenue losses at stake.

Rehberg's legislative proposal to remove the private property from the monument is the right thing to do. Even the Secretary of Interior agrees with that notion and is committed to restoring legitimacy to federal land management.

Penfold's simplistic proposal to sweep the private land issue under the carpet and move on encourages continued wrongdoing and only prolongs the monument controversy. It is time we start doing things right in the Breaks, and Rehberg's legislation is a welcomed step in that direction.

Tom Econom