The argument here is actually very simple: cigarette taxes are in fact taxes, not ‘user fees’ or any other kind of bureaucratic nonsense. People like to pretend otherwise because it’s easier to pass something that’s not called a tax, and because in this particular case the the average member of the group that Rasmussen likes to call the Political Class probably doesn’t smoke anyway. In other words, if it’s not affecting them personally, it’s not their problem. This is not a particularly inclusive attitude, but then nobody was accusing the Political Class with an excess of empathy anyway.
This particular kind of tax is especially bad for two reasons. First off, it is a tax that primarily affects lower income groups (see the chart below):
…and, secondly, it’s conceded across the board that tax hikes on cigarettes will have the long-term effect of reducing cigarette consumption, which means that any revenue generation from this tax will almost certainly fall short of current projections. As ATF noted, this has been borne out by results in both New Jersey and Maryland. The reason for this is because while moving from a pack a day to quitting may be exceptionally difficult for most addicts, moving from, say, two packs a day to one is a much easier production – so a tobacco user doesn’t actually have to quit in order to reduce his tax burden. What makes this more than academic is that typically budgets do not take this detail into consideration when using cigarette taxes: for example, the recent S-CHIP expansion relies on them. When that money doesn’t come in as expected, count on taxes being raised generally to compensate.
In other words, this is shaping up to be a scenario that is not even penny-wise – and unfortunately, one time where state Republicans seem determined to emulate the federal government’s decision to conduct class warfare and stealth social engineering. I can’t improve on Brian Faughnan’s conclusion:
If you vote in Florida, contact your representatives in the State legislature here, and tell them to oppose higher taxes – especially highly regressive taxes such as this one. Tell them not to throw away one of the party’s few remaining assets in the vain hopes that Democrats will call them ‘compassionate;’ it’s never going to happen.
And regardless of where you live, remember that Florida Governor Charlie Crist is considering a bid for higher office. He’s weighing a Senate run, and he might even appear on a national ticket someday. Let him know that when he does, you’ll remember how he handled this issue. His e-mail address is: [email protected]
Sounds like a good idea.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.