- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Sept. 29, 2016

Measure 4 not the way to raise tax

Sometimes a goal can have merit but the method of achieving it can fall short. Such is the case with Measure 4.

Supporters of Measure 4 argue it will discourage young people from trying tobacco products by raising the tax to an unaffordable level. It has worked in other states, supporters say, and it can work in North Dakota.

The state hasn’t increased its tobacco tax since 1993 and only three states have a lower tax. During the last session the Legislature rejected a bill raising the tax. That prompted tobacco opponents to get Measure 4 on the ballot.

The Tribune Editorial Board believes Measure 4’s intentions are good but it goes too far. Voters should reject Measure 4.

If approved, Measure 4 will increase the tax on cigarettes from 44 cents per pack to $2.20. Taxes on other nicotine products would be increased from 28 percent of the wholesale purchase price to 56 percent. The national average tax on a pack of cigarettes is $1.61. The increase in the tax doesn’t bother the Tribune; what happens to the money concerns the editorial board.

New tax revenue generated through the measure would go to health-related programs in the state’s Community Health Trust Fund and a newly created Veterans Tobacco Tax Trust Fund. The funds would be overseen by boards appointed by the governor. It’s estimated the measure will result in about $100 million in new funds per biennium.

Health and veterans programs serve a good purpose and an argument can be made for more funding. The Tribune believes, however, that the Legislature is in the best position to make funding decisions. How the new revenue created by Measure 4 is allocated should be decided by the Legislature. Lawmakers are responsible for looking at the big picture every session and making budget decisions. Not everyone is happy with what they decide but they are elected to make the tough decisions.

The Tribune has opposed measures in the past that took budget decisions out of the hands of the lawmakers.

The Tribune agrees the tobacco tax should be increased and the Legislature should do so in 2017. Legislators should consider veterans and health programs when deciding how to use the new revenue. In the end, how the money is allocated should be based on the state’s most pressing needs.

Mike Rud, president of the North Dakota Retail Association, argues a tax increase could have a dire impact on low income smokers and small businesses. During the 2015 legislative session the retail association and others were able to persuade the Legislature to reject two bills raising tobacco taxes. The main reason for a higher tobacco tax is to discourage smoking and reduce health costs. The Tribune doesn’t believe a higher tax will result in businesses closing.

Voters should reject Measure 4 and legislators should approve a higher tobacco tax in 2017.


Williston Herald, Williston, Sept. 25, 2016

City should do more to inform

Williston’s city government needs to remember it works for the community.

The city had the opportunity to build consensus and get business owners behind its new sign ordinance, but instead decided to do the bare minimum.

The proposed revisions to its sign ordinance are in pursuit of a reasonable goal. Making areas of the city such as downtown more aesthetically pleasing and more permanent looking is something residents can all appreciate. The issue at hand isn’t whether the ordinance is the right choice, however.

The city could have handled the entire process of preparing a sign ordinance in a different and more transparent way. It should have had an ongoing conversation with business owners and the Chamber of Commerce, rather than having a public hearing that, in the end, had no impact at all on the process.

The Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the proposed ordinance, in large part thanks to the outpouring of opposition at the public hearing, but their rejection carries little weight, because the ordinance is still going to go before the City Commission for a public hearing on Oct. 11. Why show the public a completed ordinance - one that clocks in at more than 20 pages - rather than having a conversation about what such an ordinance should include before drafting it?

The city needs to carefully consider where signs are allowed and what sizes are appropriate. But having everyone on the committee that drafts the ordinance be city employees or officials is absolutely the wrong way to proceed. The committee could have held public meetings during the drafting process, rather than a public hearing after the ordinance was drafted.

When creating ordinances that directly affect part of the population, the city has an obligation to take those voices into consideration from the very beginning, not just during one or two public hearings.

Real transparency and real collaboration are called for throughout every step of the process. The city government exists to address the real needs of city residents. Business owners are not the only constituency, but when a proposed ordinance affects them, the city needs to do more to ensure it’s keeping their interests in mind - and to communicate how it’s doing so.

Collaborating with the community and offering multiple chances for residents to share their priorities and concerns is good policy and good government. It’s what the community deserves.

We urge the City Commission to table the ordinance and take the opportunity to re-draft it with input from business owners. And we hope that in the future city government makes a real effort to communicate about important issues before it’s time for a public hearing.


Minot Daily News, Minot, Sept. 29, 2016

Setting a bar for Minot council candidates

Whether it’s the city Ad Hoc Change of Government Committee’s recommendation to set the required number of signatures for a candidate to be on the ballot for Minot City Council or one day bringing back the discussion of possible term limits for council members, there is nothing wrong with setting a bar for those who would seek office. Public office should be accessible for interested parties; but those parties must also demonstrate the supreme seriousness good leaders must possess.

Setting the bar at the right height is the challenge.

While it is essential for residents to get involved in local government, including running for city council, it must also be a decision supported by a true commitment. Running for office should not be done on a whim and it should not be something one does by obtaining signatures from just the people on one’s block. It should be something to seriously consider and to view as a valuable service to one’s community. Candidates should need to be able to reach out to people outside their own social circle, share their commitment and vision, and garner support for their candidacy.

The committee’s recommendation of 300 signatures as a requirement to run for city council is not unreasonable. It mandates potential candidates work for the opportunity, but it should not be a burden on those who have given it sufficient consideration.

Josh Wolsky’s suggestion to table discussion of term limits until after the new government is seated is a smart one. The debate over term limits is a contentious one, and proponents on both sides have valid points. However, whether or not term limits exist should not be a deterrent to seeking public office and can be debated in full.

It is good to see the government change committee coming up with rational suggestions, particularly given the balance required in formulating the election process. Minot desperately needs new blood in government, but it also needs individuals to whom service is not a casual pastime.


Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide