Thursday, October 14, 2010


I am mildly irritated about sin taxes. Not because I feel bad about charging people more for engaging in activities of which I do not approve (that doesn't bother me). And not because I worry that part of the taxable flock is being culled out for a specific shearing (I'm good with that as well).

No, the source of my unease stems from the idea that when the state begins to tax something, they become part of the problem as opposed to part of solution. If this stuff is sinful and bad, then should they really be pulling a chair up to table and dealing themselves in? Eventually the government relies upon it as a dependable income source, so that if everyone gave up cigs tomorrow, the state would be in deep trouble (a note to anti-tax folk - stop smoking and starve the beast).

But despite this mild concern I'm really ambivalent about I-1107, which will overturn taxes recently placed on sodas and candy. And that is odd since it is MY particular ox that is being gored, as over the past few years I have been drinking sodas in amounts that lab rats would turn down. So shouldn't I be lining up to support this initiative, which (as so many others on the ballots this year) supposedly keeps government at bay?

Well, to be frank, I'm pretty good with the taxes as they stand. In fact, if it encourages me to stop poaching the M&Ms in the break area, it would probably be a good thing for my general health. And if this tax reduces or transforms the amount of soda and candy in the break room, that's a cross I shall bear (though as a note to the management, should they be reading this: Ree wants us to bring back the Wheat Thins. They wouldn't be taxed under this plan. Just saying).

In addition to rolling back a tax installed to help with the current shortfall, the measure re-opens a loophole that had just been closed. Remember loopholes? Back when Olympia was fussing about the budget, there was popular sentiment to close loopholes to taxes. This was one, for processed products (like chili). For this measure, this closed loophole is a fig-leaf behind which rest of the initiative can cower behind, and it's a big part of the "They're taxing food!" scare you're getting from that nice actor who looks like a grocer from forty years back.

And that commercial is part of a 16 million dollar campaign that is heavily supported by Big Beverage - the cola companies that are petrified that expense may move some of the docile consumers away.

You heard that right. 16 million dollar. Someone figured out that would be three Diet Cokes for every man, woman, and child in the state.

And I suppose that's the big reason I'm going No on this one. All the push here is coming from the American Beverage Association, and it is such overkill that it threatens to drown out anything that sounds like a reasonable discussion. And obviously they're doing well enough that they can drop 16 huge on a race like this.

But it also gets me to thinking ...

I think I want to run an initiative myself that all moneys spent on a state initiative campaign must be spent in Washington State. None of this "ad shot in Chicago" or "uses the leftover pamphlets from a similar measure in California". Heck, we can turn it into profit center - launching initiatives that threaten powerful out-of-state interests, then sit back and watch the cash flow in to defeat them.

That's just a thought. In the meantime, vote No on this foolishness.

More later,