How to make that regressive cigarette tax even more regressive?

27 Jul 2010 04:01 pm
Posted by: Donna

Pass Prop 302, that’s how. It’s the Legislature’s referendum to redirect the revenue collected from the First Things First cigarette tax to the general fund. The money will go directly to the coffers of the Chamber of Commerce in the form of more tax cuts to fat cats as God and John Kavanaugh intended.

First Things First was passed by voters in 2006. It placed an 80 cent tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in Arizona to fund early childhood health and education programs. The money goes to the state agency created by the proposition, which in turn dispenses grants to various programs through 31 volunteer regional councils. Apparently there are some issues with the program as reported by the AZ Republic back in March and summarized by the Prop 302 Ballotpedia entry:

• At the end of January 2010, the program reportedly possessed $325 million in unspent money, which was more than two-thirds of funds the program had allegedly collected.

• Reports of potential conflicts of interest were alleged in terms of funding.

• Three large non-profit groups have received 50 percent of the First Things First money granted so far. Approximately only 30 percent of the grants awarded were through a competitive grant process. All grants, as expected in the law voters passed, should be awarded through this process.

FTF’s explanation for why they are sitting on so much money makes sense.

Rhian Evans Alvin, executive director of the First Things First Program, stated, “We have money in the bank because we’re required to collect our funding before we actually spend it. We offered them a 6-year, no-interest loan. The governor said ‘yes, we’ll take it,’ the legislature had other ideas – like taking the money and not wanting to pay it back.”

If there really are problems with conflicts of interest they can be addressed without dismantling the entire program and grabbing the money. Same goes with grant processes that aren’t competitive enough. These may be legitimate areas of concern about the FTF program in itself, but as justification for what the Legislature is trying to do they are nothing but red herrings.

FTF and supporters challenged the language of Prop 302 in court, claiming that the language was biased against the program. The lawsuit failed yesterday but I don’t think it would have changed the misleading nature of the measure had it succeeded. Because I guar-an-damn-tee the official language sent to voters will NOT emphasize the most salient aspect of Prop 302, which is that it repeals the First Things First program but NOT the 80 cent tax collected on each pack of cigarettes. That’s right, smokers (who are disproportionately low income) will continue to be regressively taxed (sin taxes are regressive in practice) to allow the Grover Norquist Death Cult in the Legislature to funnel tax cuts to fat cats and cut social services to poor people (who, I remind you, are more likely to smoke) indefinitely. Dude, THAT’S what you call regressive! I might add that this is yet another example of the Grover Norquist Death Cult smuggling in a tax increase, which they signed an oath not to do. Scoundrels, the lot of them. Y’all know I smoke and that I voted for First Things First. I smoke for the children. You’re welcome. If they pull this scam past the voters in November I swear I’m buying all my smokes on the rez.

I’m sure some people will argue that because sin taxes reduce smoking the continuation of the FTF tax is still worthwhile, no matter how the money is used. But I tend to think the public’s disapproval of smoking and desire to punish it will be outweighed by their irritation over dishonest bait and switch tactics. While the results of many elections in Arizona leave me with my head scratching I have to say that the voters get it right on these bogus propositions more often than not (with notable exceptions*). They didn’t fall for the phony payday loan “reform” measure or the fake “stop illegal hiring” one in 2008, despite all the money spent by their corporate backers. Oddly enough, no one’s filed as a contributor to a pro-Prop 302 effort, though the AZ Chamber supports it.

“The state has no good options as it continues to dig out from a fiscal crisis. While the mission of First Things First is one that many in the business community support, the state finds itself in a situation where funding must be prioritized,” (Glenn) Hamer said. “If Proposition 302 were to fail it would almost certainly result in fewer funds being available for health and human services for children.”

You cannot make this stuff up.

* Anti-immigration measures, the gay marriage ban, and the probable success of the upcoming anti-affirmative action referendum.

3 Comments

  1. Comment by Mark Manoil on July 27, 2010 9:43 pm

    Kudos on this post. Arizona is too often the land of the the low information voter (guesser?). Maybe that’s true every where. But this move, as you note, speaks further to the legislature’s cowardice in raising revenue honestly. Instead, they suppose it will be easier to redirect Arizona voter-directed taxes, without, of course, telling voters that is what they are doing.

  2. Comment by kate on August 22, 2010 11:25 am

    This is the biggest bunch of crap I have read on this proposition thus far It doesn’t even come close as to what prop 302 was supposed to be used for and was voted into by inept voters. Give me a break. If I wanted a “nanny state”? I’d move to Cuba, Venezuela, etc. and we ALL know how those are…if we know the truth and not the b.s. some movie star decides they are smarter than me, to know…What crap.

  3. Comment by Loredana on January 1, 2013 6:04 pm

    I reside and own a buesinss in Washington but am furious at the thought of Oregon voting in measure 66 & 67. The one and only commercial on main stream TV is not a good representation of why this bill will hurt Oregonians. The commercial is done by amatuers and should have educated the public as to the types of taxes that buesinsses already pay. The $10.00 tax is only one of many that busineses in Oregon pay but Oregonians won’t know that because no one spoke out and really educated the public enough. Why aren’t real buesinsses speaking out against this on TV?. Why aren’t there billboards posted stating the reasons this is unfair? Why aren’t there signs lining the freeways about what this tax really means to the life of buesinsses. If this measure passes it will be the fault of everyone. The liberal and tax hungry representatives will just have done a better job making their point.

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