Taxing Sin

Blog Post
Background     Here in the Arizona highlands, the resident sheriff’s deputy quit and went to work for the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Which means that if we call for help, it’s about 2 hours in coming. Most of the people in the area where I live are comfortable handling their own problems when it comes to ex-officio solutions. It’s unlikely that his position will be filled anytime soon because there are not many deputies who want to work in the mountains with a 2 hour response time to a frantic call for back-up. Our taxes should be applied to fund that single deputy, but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
Context and Precedence     The discussion turned to taxation and to excise taxes (An excise tax is a legislated tax on specific goods or services at purchase such as fuel, tobacco, and alcohol.) on the lottery, tobacco and narcotics, in places such as Colorado, where they justified legalizing what was criminal behavior because marijuana would be taxed. Those taxes would be used to support programs for crippled children, etc.
My take on sin taxes     If you are going to have them, the revenue should go to the problems that the ‘sins’ produce. For example, a cigarette tax should go nowhere but an earmarked fund to help treat cancer patients. An alcohol tax should be earmarked for alcohol rehab and to help the victims of drunk driving. A marijuana tax should only go to medical treatment programs for drug addiction. The Lottery or gaming tax proceeds could go to support programs that treat people with gambling addiction issues. In other words, the tax directly applies to the costs to the state for managing the fall out of the behavior or ‘sin’.
Police departments, fire departments, public schools, etc. should be paid for with a combination of sales tax or property tax in the way that they usually are (depending on where you live). As a member of a fire district board, we just raised taxes on the people who live within the district and benefit from fire and paramedic services. If you want trained, professional, full time fire paramedics available to help you when you call 911, you need to shoulder the burden of those services if you live in the district. Or you can vote the district board out of office, and find new board members who will reduce the tax. That’s how it works.

There are no commercial properties to tax here, and the fractional benefit to the fire district from state sales tax is quite small. Sin taxes are moot because no sins are sold here.

When special excise taxes are levied on ‘sinful’ products, there is always an expectation that the sin will continue and the taxes will roll in predictably, and that it can then fund schools and the money that had been used to fund schools can go to some politicians other pet project (almost always using your tax dollars to buy votes for the politician or to raise salaries for our hard working politicians). In Colorado, I’ve read of a degree of panic that set in when other states legalized marijuana and other narcotics and the anticipated revenue didn’t land in Colorado. Does that mean that they need to raise the tax on narcotics in Colorado (and would that drive the business to another state)?
In Nevada, where gaming taxes funded the entire state budget, a change in behavior by tourists where they are spending money on food/beverage, entertainment and hospitality rather than throwing their money away at the blackjack table created a species of crisis as lawmakers are being forced to raise taxes on state residents. I admit that the Nevada situation is more unique than it is elsewhere, but the pattern remains.
Your thoughts on the matter?

14 thoughts on “Taxing Sin

  1. Sin taxes, or what I prefer to call them 'behavior taxes' have been around forever. And will remain a source of revenues for any government that should levy them.

    Driving is a behavior, and so is choosing to own property – the state/county will know that this is a behavior that will continue, and accordingly will continue to cash in a a chunk of that behavior and its subsequent revenue.

    Smoking/drinking/drugs and sex: all behaviors that have gone on since man crawed out of the ooze, and will continue until man is no more. Pot is now getting taxed here and there, and in time will be taxed everywhere – too much money to let the criminals hoard it all.

    Sex: it's legal in several European countries, and the tax revenue is appreciated by those governments.

    Of course, anybody can refuse to participate in paying those taxes: don't drink/drive/or do drugs. Don't gamble, don't own property (rent it), and don't pay anybody for sex. And you will avoid all of those taxes.

    Now, once the government finds an activity/behavior that can be taxed and that you can't avoid engaging in, such as living and breathing air, then something such as a weather tax (The Green New Deal) will certainly be popular with all governments at all levels.

    Of course, you have to have a plurality of voters who choose to allow this, therein lies the rub…taxing behaviors of others while exempting yourself from these taxes because you yourself do not engage in that behavior, that is always popular at the ballot box.

    Raising your own taxes, that's another thing entirely…

  2. Fredd makes an excellent point. TAX THE AIR. Private jets and seaside mansions all'round! Settled science.

  3. As a resident of California Lite, I find nothing you have written to be anything but spot on.

    Regarding evil weed, the street price for the illegal shit is far less than the legal shit per my LEO friends. Quality seems to be a low priority for consumers.

  4. Yes, the weather tax – not an excise tax. But some regions may want to opt out, leaving holes in the weather all over this (once) great nation.

  5. Imagine, uniform temperatures day and night around the whole planet. Yes, it would be an ice age, but the whole climate thing would be settled science if the planet was just a giant snowball.

  6. Price gouging by the 'legal' sellers? It sounds like a monopoly (not the board game) to me. It's time to invoke the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and crush the legal sellers. Force them to sell drugs at street prices.

  7. My wife has cancer and is pretty much maxed out on treatments. She uses the medical brands sold in CO and shipped to us via a friend. She uses the low THC (0.5 mg) and high CBD (15.0 mg) tablets that is put under the tongue. Some oil in similar makeup, but not weed to smoke. It helps her and that is good enough for me. Unless you have never had the need for relief, you won’t understand. Legalize if and let the chips fall where they may, like we do with alcohol. Tax the stuffing out of it if that makes one feel better, but vote it in… medical preferably.

  8. Maybe state officials should spend less????? As you know, my taxes are through the roof and (Damn it) I can't leave.

  9. It isn't the growers/sellers, it's the government that makes it crazy expensive. They can't do more than see the Golden Goose before they kill it.


  10. Yeah, Rhode Island is a flaming garbage dump.
    We have a $10 billion budget, one million people, the worst roads in America, and 300,000 people on public assistance.

    The SecState also admitted that 20% of the voter rolls are fraudulent.

    As for your local LE situation; you should tell them that if they make it a Sheriff job instead of a Deputy job, you'll take it, LL.

    No, it wouldn't pay anything, and it would be an enormous PITA for you… but it would be hilarious for the rest of us!


  11. What a wonderful idea to tax the people that use the service. Thing is as you've noted that money never goes to mitigate problems of same.
    Until we have less government oversight nothing is going to change.
    You should be the resident starlight undercover sheriff!

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