By Leland Conway
We have been lied to, and smokers will be the first to pay the price. But don’t worry, the rest of us will soon follow. That’s the reality of the coming increased cigarette tax. Why? Because of the extremely effective propaganda machine put together by the powerful combo team of liberal health activists and restrictive government forces.
I knew something was amiss when Governor Steve Beshear travelled the state with his entire cabinet in tow on his “listening tour.” Never mind the cost to fly the entire group all over the commonwealth on the state plane. It was far more important that the Governor tell us that we were facing an “austere budget.”
What seemed strange, however, was that shortly after he uttered those famous words, he was seen on national television at the Democratic National Convention proclaiming that Kentucky’s economy was “dynamic” and attracting the “attention of the entire world.”
I was dubious when the governor told me on my radio show that he would “consider looking into” the idea of eliminating the Kentucky income tax to stimulate economic growth. But shortly after that discussion all he seemed to be able to talk about was raising the cigarette tax in order to “raise revenue.” Surely tax increases are not the only solution to economic stress.
For months now, all we have heard from Frankfort is how terrible our budget problems are in this difficult economy. State officials have criss-crossed the commonwealth on behalf of the Governor trumpeting the coming economic apocalypse. Doctors and nurses and health groups have grandstanded on the terrible plight of the American smoker and all those unlucky enough to stand within three feet of them. Editorial boards from all of the major newspapers have dutifully sounded the alarm and scrambled to recite the necessary statistics to convince us that raising the tax will be good for the smoker, the bystander and the treasury altogether. But no one describes an end game to this proposal. What will the next behavioral tax be when we have exhausted this boost to the treasury?
The reality is that there is a big difference between how much money Kentucky needs to operate, and how much our legislature wants to spend.
Many of the Governor’s so-called economic experts project that the cigarette tax will raise around $88 million dollars this fiscal year, and somewhere close to $200 million over the next two years. But at the same time they trumpet these numbers, the health groups are telling us how great it will be when everyone finally stops smoking. How can the revenue from the increased cigarette tax grow while the sales of cigarettes simultaneously drop?
Now that we have discovered that someone is being less than honest with us, it would be a good time to reveal the truth that tax and spend politicians and their nanny state, health advocate friends don’t want you to hear. Despite all of the fear mongering over Kentucky’s budget crisis and the hard sell on the need to raise revenue, Kentucky’s revenue is actually up. That’s right, revenues are up. Not a dash, not a tidbit, but significantly. December revenue was up a whopping 5% over the same month last year. In fact, the treasury has taken in nearly $50 million dollars more so far this year than over the same period last year. Wow.
What you have just read is definitive proof that Kentucky’s problem is not a lack of spending money, but rather a lack of spending discipline. I don’t care much for big government, but I enjoy being lied to even less.