Light one up for the next budget extender

What’s the latest New York budget news to break on a Friday?  It’s the most recent budget extender.  Yawn.  But wait a minute, there is additional legislation in the extender:  a large increase in the already sizable tax on cigarettes.  That’s another $1.60 in taxes per pack.  The taxes alone would cost a smoker $4.35 per pack.  It’s not just cigarettes either.  According to Jimmy Vielkind’s Capitol Confidential blog post, other tobacco products will be taxed at a 75% rate.  (If you are so inclined, you can check out Budget Director Robert Megna’s nearly 20 minute press briefing about this at the bottom of Vielkind’s post.)

But will the extender pass?  In my view, it’s likely because not passing it means a government shutdown. However, it will take all 32 Senate Democrats to pass.  (Don’t expect the 30 Senate Republicans to vote for any tax increases.)  Certainly, it will pass the Assembly.  Not surprisingly, it’s got the support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Let me be CRYSTAL clear.  I have never smoked, and I never will.  I’ve always disliked cigarette smoking, and I think it is incredibly unwise to start.  Calling it unhealthy is an understatement.  It’s also massively addictive.  I’m no fan of cigarettes or cigarette companies, not in the least.

When looking at the legislation, an average non-smoker may say it’s no big deal.  After all, our government and many other organizations constantly remind us that higher tobacco taxes are a good thing because they will decrease the number of smokers.  Smoking is disgusting, you know. They’re just looking out for our best interests.

Except cigarette smoking, nasty habit and all, is legal.  Taxing it is one thing.  Taxing it at the levels proposed is horrible.  Think about it.  What’s your little vice?  Soda?  Steak?  Cappuccino?  Roller coaster riding?  Fill in the blank, and then think about how you would feel if the government deemed it worthy of a 75% taxation rate.  Smoking, as much as we all may dislike it, is the precedent.

Yet this goes beyond the concept of government intrusion.  What New York State government is doing is reprehensible.  In my view, any legislator who approves this legislation is no better than a drug dealer.  I’ll type it again slowly and in all-caps for any politicians reading this: DRUG DEALER.  The same goes for the governor.  Scratch that.  They will be worse than drug dealers.  Certainly having people hooked on drugs is good for a dealer’s business.  But, we’re not likely to see any dealers on TV telling us that their actions are “good.”  Unlike politicians who waste no time telling us of their “good intentions.”  All the while, those same politicians are raising revenue on the backs (or is that lungs?) of people, many of whom are addicted to nicotine. It’s not a perfect analogy, but you get my point.

In the meantime, I want to thank New York smokers.  Your addiction may keep state government functioning.

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  1. springtimesoul

     /  June 19, 2010

    government is addicted to the money raised via addiction.


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