Tax on HMOs is responsible way to pay for reform

"Tax" is not a four-letter word. And Maryland voters are savvy enough to understand that if the state wants to provide a government subsidy to physicians to help cover malpractice insurance premiums, revenue to pay for the cost of that subsidy must be generated ("Lawmakers override veto on reform bill," Jan. 12).

The primary way the state generates the revenues it needs to pay for the services it provides - including education, transportation, the prison system, protection of the bay and subsidies such as those demanded by physicians - is through imposing taxes.

And Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. did just that last year when he imposed the flush tax on consumers to help fund wastewater treatment.

So it is the governor who is acting irresponsibly by misleading voters on the need to pay for services and subsidies that are deemed to be for the public good.

Michael J. Travieso


The writer is a former people's counsel for the state of Maryland.

Lawmakers back greedy trial lawyers

By overriding Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s veto of the malpractice reform bill, the General Assembly has proved that its function is to serve the interests of trial lawyers, not the people of Maryland ("Lawmakers override veto on reform bill," Jan. 12).

Instead of reining in the cost of malpractice litigation, the General Assembly has passed a law taxing the citizens of Maryland and allowing the lawyers to continue their extortion against the medical community and insurers.

Jay Davis


Forest planning rule adds input, flexibility

On Dec. 22, the U.S. Forest Service released its final rule that will guide forest planning in the future for individual forest management plans governing the 155 national forests and 20 grasslands - a rule that was developed over many years by Forest Service natural resource professionals like me ("Chopping down safeguards," Opinion * Commentary, Jan. 5).

This rule will take us into that future, protecting the environment and promoting all of the things Americans love about their forests - clean air, clean water, abundant wildlife and the opportunity to enjoy all of that.

This rule is in full compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). And, under it, for the first time, the Forest Service will use an environmental management system (EMS), which will improve performance and accountability through an open and independent audit of all that we do.

The new rule establishes public participation and collaboration requirements that far exceed anything that is required by NEPA. And it adds a requirement for the public to be engaged in the monitoring phase of the process through the EMS.

This new rule will enable Forest Service experts to respond more rapidly to changing conditions and emerging threats such as invasive species and unnatural, catastrophic wildfires.

We will provide for diversity of plant and animal communities by bringing in new information and science as soon as it becomes available - thus better protecting forests, grasslands and wildlife.

Sally Collins


The writer is associate chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.

Find money owed to Baltimore schools

Jay Gillen is correct in "An unfair burden" (Opinion * Commentary, Jan. 6). The state has not given a fair share of its education dollars to Baltimore.

I remember years ago, when I first moved to Maryland, reading in The Sun about the millions of dollars owed to the city public schools and how the Thornton law would increase funding.

My son was 5 months old at the time. Now he is in kindergarten in a city elementary school where the parents must raise the money for school supplies such as paper, pencils and books, and for facilities such as a blacktop for basketball and four-square and a playground for climbing and swinging.

The teachers are tireless in their efforts, yet underpaid.

The state of the Baltimore school system is less a management issue than a money issue.

The governor should pony up the money owed to Baltimore under the court order without delay.

Allyson Mattanah


No reason to coddle Iraq's evil insurgents

The letter "America's enemies aren't simply evil" (Jan. 8) is a terrifying example of how ignorance can lead to the coddling of evil.

The writer clearly doesn't separate the victims from the enemies in the Iraqi war.

And who are the insurgents in this war? They are foreign terrorists and remnants of the tyrannical Baathist regime who are murdering Iraqi civilians every day.

The Iraqi insurgents want to control the Iraqi people through murder and terror. To call this defending a "way of life" is grossly misguided.

Americans sometimes seem to forget that the right to practice freedom of religion, speech, education, etc., is often suppressed by what I am not afraid to call "evil people" in this world.

Any time a government or terrorist group needs to kill men, women and children to control them, it is evil.

This is not a "way of life" to be respected.

Christine N. Barnette

Glen Burnie

What if war funds went to Asia's aid?

I've been touched to see the faces of young American servicemen and women helping the victims of the recent tsunami. One gets the feeling that they really feel a sense of purpose in being there.

I'm proud that our military is used for such important work. And I was pleased when I heard that the United States planned to send $350 million to support the effort.

Mr. Bush additionally has asked Americans to donate their own funds to add to the aid effort (and they are responding generously).

But then I heard that President Bush didn't intend to ask Congress for supplemental funds to cover the $350 million but intended to take the money from the current aid budget, which funds life-saving programs in other countries.

And then I juxtapose this image of helpful Americans with the knowledge that about $1 billion of our tax money is being spent each week in the war in Iraq.

What if we reversed these figures?

What if we used U.S. funds and our military personnel to help people in dire need around the world, and we asked Americans to donate their money directly to fight optional wars, such as the one in Iraq?

If Americans didn't want to put up the money, it would signal that we ought not go to war.

Bebe Verdery


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