Tax Addiction - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Tax Addiction

If California lawmakers don’t want people to smoke, why are they tying the state’s budget to smoking? Democrats seek to close the state’s $24 billion deficit through the servitude of smokers. Democratic Party leaders proposed this week a steep increase in cigarette taxes — from 87 cents to $3.

The Democrats, you see, hate smoking so much that they are planning to make it the state’s golden goose. They of course see no contradiction between discouraging smoking and depending on it. Indeed, given their prodigal spending habits, they can only hope that Californians’ nicotine habit grows.

The Democrats’ cynicism is impressive. They know that smokers are a reviled political class with little freedom over their habit. So why not jack up the cost of a pack to $7.50? If they complain, who cares? No one will listen. And the addiction ensures that they will keep buying packs well into the future.

Governor Gray Davis sees the cigarette tax proposal as a political winner. For one, it would spare him the embarrassment of having to raise taxes on motorists. He had made a great show of reducing the vehicle licensing fee a few years ago. He spent millions in state money to send out an utterly unnecessary notice telling motorists that he had cut their fees. He made no such plans to inform them that he intended to raise those fees this year.

“The speaker’s proposal to swap the vehicle license fee increase for an increase in the cigarette tax is something I can support,” a grateful Davis says.

Will Republicans let Davis get away with this? Probably. The Democrats are dangling state pork before on-the-fence Republicans. And liberal Republicans don’t object to Davis’s tax-and-spend ways.

The Republicans should make the resolution of the budgetary impasse revolve not around higher taxes, but lower spending. Why require already overtaxed Californians to pay for Davis’s blunders and outrageous statism?

Legislative analysts note that Davis increased state spending by 36 percent, even though the state population has only grown by around 5 percent. State Senator Tom McClintock points out that “California now spends nearly $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the state, compared to $1,800 in Arizona.”

Had Davis simply restricted himself to budget growth commensurate with inflation and population, he says, California would be awash in surpluses. In a speech earlier this year, McClintock said, “This year’s budget would still reflect a 20 percent increase over the last four years. Twenty Percent. I think very few families outside of government have seen a 20 percent growth in their income over the last four years. But instead of a $24 billion deficit, we would in fact have a $38 billion cumulative surplus.…If these numbers are accurate, it means that the discussion we would be having today would be, ‘how do we rebate an average of $4,500 to every family in California.'”

Instead, the debate is, who can we tax the most with the least political pain? The cowards at the Capitol select smokers.

Meanwhile, Davis, after bankrupting the state, finds himself with more campaign money than he can possibly spend. His anti-Bill Simon television ads are appearing with absurd frequency (Davis can max out on television advertising and still have money left over).

Davis said that he would run on the issues. But most of his ads don’t even mention Simon’s stand on the issues. The ads are just personal attacks, breathtakingly petty given Davis’s own screw-ups and corruption.

Davis particularly likes the formulation: If Simon can’t run a business, how can he run California? Never mind that Davis has already demonstrated he can’t run California. Simon’s business has made significant profits. All Davis has done is turn a surplus into a deficit. You can’t run California by blowing smoke.

George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats' Crypto-Socialist?
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