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LETTER: In 'Laffen world,' preference---not logic-- governs tax policy

In a recent op-ed, Altru's Safe Kids director, Carma Hanson, correctly opined on the dangers of e-cigarettes ("Attention, parents: E-cigs present poisoning dangers," Page A4, April 6).

Ironically, the vice-president of Altru's board, State Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, offered the following in his testimony against a bill to increase taxes on cigarettes: "Is it really the right place for tax policy to be regulating perfectly legal products in our state?"

And in the ultimate act of chutzpah, Laffen, who received $7,500 in donations from just five health care professionals, concluded, "I just don't think—at this point any more—smoking is a harm to others."

I am a strong supporter of Altru and its many excellent employees. While Laffen, as a state senator, is free to promote freedom to smoke; Altru has to realize this affects their brand.

Since I first drafted this letter, Laffen testified in favor of SB 2035, which offers tax exemptions for certain building projects. His testimony is telling: He is "hoping to incentivize these two industries to locate in North Dakota," he said.

In Laffen world, it's OK to use tax policy to pick certain industries as winners, but not OK to use tax policy to decrease the use of a product known to kill people.

Is this the new North Dakota way?

C.T. Marhula

Grand Forks