Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cig Hell

A shout out to the Daily News' Ken Lovett who has been tracking the cigarette fee debacle. As he pointed out yesterday, there's no real enthusiasm on either side of the aisle for the measure: "Gov. Paterson's plan to raise fees on stores that sell cigarettes drew fire Monday from Democrats and Republicans..."Why doesn't he just say we're against small businesses," said Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan). "It's an absurd proposal, particularly in hard times."

And one lawmaker immediately saw the connection to the government's failure to collect taxes from Indian retailers: "State Sen. Dale Volker, a Buffalo Republican, called it "wrong and dangerous to drive social policy with tax policy." Volker said the plan is a double whammy to owners of small stores. On the one hand, they will be charged more. On the other, he said, they are at a competitive disadvantage because the Paterson administration has not gone after taxes owed for the sale of cigarettes to non-Indians on reservations."

As usual, health advocates believe that fewer outlets will mean less consumption: "Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines said if fewer stores sell cigarettes, more people will quit smoking." But over half of all cigarettes sold in NY State are sold-untaxed-through Indian retailers; and that is why the current proposal amounts to a double whammy on store owners: "Meanwhile, a report released Monday by the New York Association of Convenience Stores says the state is losing $1 billion a year by not going after taxes for cigarettes sold on Indian reservations. Paterson budget spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said he hadn't seen the report."

Ah, continued hear no evil, see no evil; while stores continue to close. Here's a case were the state's tax revenues have literally gone up in smoke.