April 24, 2010 in City

These Buds (and Butterfingers) are for you, budgeteers

By The Spokesman-Review
 

’Scuse me while I fire up this Marlboro.

Mmm, mmm. That’s satisfaction. And this Snickers bar tastes great for breakfast. Now, pardon me while I wash it all down with a big, frosty schooner of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

What am I doing?

Or, as my wife, the public health nurse, might ask, “What ridiculous little game do you think you’re playing at?”

Sorry. I’m merely balancing the Washington budget.

This is what it has come to. (Pause to eat an entire Mr. Goodbar.) Our state Legislature, with Solomonic wisdom, has decided to acquire its desperately needed revenue by boosting the taxes on cigarettes, candy and this fine, mass-produced malt beverage product I have in my hand.

(Burp.)

So, as responsible Washington citizens, we need to start consuming even more of these items than before. The choice is stark. We either belly up to the bar, or we let our state go belly up.

(I have to say, though, that PBR does not exactly complement the delicate flavor notes of a Mr. Goodbar. I can’t believe they didn’t raise the taxes on potato chips. That would have been excellent.)

They did, however, raise taxes on most of the things that middle-schoolers love – chewing gum, candy and soda pop – as well as most of the things that middle-aged men love – Bud, cigarettes and cigars. I’ve heard of taxing the middle class, but this is taxing the midriff class.

You might also call this a regressive tax, since, let’s face it, most of the millionaires I know are not exactly serving chewing gum and Mountain Dew at their dinner parties. Nor are they popping the top of a Miller Lite and delicately sniffing its seltzerlike bouquet (microbrews are exempt).

If we really wanted to levy a tax on the people who can afford it, we would have socked it to cabernet sauvignon, riesling and Pike Place Kilt-Lifter Ruby Ale. You know, the beverages quaffed by people like state legislators.

Yet it’s not actually a true regressive tax, since it is not aimed at necessities such as milk, cereal or Pop Tarts. Nor is it a true “sin” tax, unless you think grape Nehi is the devil’s work. It’s more like a “things we vaguely disapprove of” tax, or a “things we vaguely look down our noses at” tax. Chewing gum gets no respect.

The Legislature and the governor seem confident that these new taxes will dump millions into the state treasury. When you’re collecting an extra 28 cents on every six-pack of Coors Light, the bucks can add up fast.

However, something – a fatal flaw – seems to have escaped the notice of the legislators, possibly because they’re high on chardonnay. They want to discourage state residents from smoking, drinking and consuming gobs of sugary treats, but they also want the money and want it badly.

They can’t have it both ways. If these higher taxes encourage us all to eat boiled kale and chug herbal tea, we’ll never get out of this budget crisis.

So that’s why I’ll be having plenty of Bud-and-Butterfinger parties this summer, as my way of saying, “Yes, Washington, I will do my fiscal duty.”

Not only can I help the state, but I can help the federal government, too. I’ll die of emphysema, lung cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, obesity and diabetes long before I hit 65. I’ll never have to collect a dime from Social Security or Medicare.

You’re welcome. (Burp.)

Reach Jim Kershner at jimk@ spokesman.com or (509) 459-5493.

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