Back in January, Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson made some bold statements during the State of the State Address. He made two statements that, to me, seem to be quite contradictory. The first being a statement to increase the sales tax on cigarettes as an effort to cut into the state's $400 million budget deficit; and the second being a call for a state-wide smoking ban.
Let me make it clear before this get too far that I am not a smoker, I have never been a smoker, and I do not plan to start smoking.
With the nation's economy in a state described in the address by Parkinson as "the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression" the state is facing some major cuts. Parkinson said he has cut $1 billion from the state's budget and cannot find another $400 million to cut. Because of the cut things such as schools, Medicare, and other social services are suffering.
"Our founders shared a vision of great public schools, outstanding universities, safe communities and an economic climate that would allow us all to prosper," Parkinson said during the address. "Unfortunately, what we have built is now at risk. Our accomplishments are at risk because the recession has devastated state revenues ... As a result of my last cuts, schools have closed and universities have laid off professors."
Along with a temporary one percent sales tax, Parkinson said he wanted to increase the sales tax on cigarettes from 79 cents per pack to the national average of $1.34. This proposed increase would be expected to increase tax revenues in the state and help put funding back into the schools, prisons, and social services.
This increase is a good idea as it will generate more revenue, however it is a double-edged sword. With a higher price comes the risk of losing the revenue from people living in cities near bordering states with lower taxes. Smoking is not illegal and those who do smoke will pay whatever the price is to get the cigarettes, therefore, I agree with the tax increase.
At the request of Parkinson and a majority of Kansas citizens, the Kansas Legislature recently passed a statewide public smoking ban, which is currently awaiting Parkinson's signature. This decision seems to be very counterproductive to an increase in cigarette sales tax. Why would the government ban smoking when it is trying to use smoking as a way to increase revenue? That just does not make any logical sense.
If anything, the government should be encouraging those who smoke to keep on smoking, not telling them to quit. If the smokers quit then what is the purpose of the tax increase? If those who smoke can do so only in their homes and their vehicles, then logic would lead one to believe that they would be smoking less cigarettes, again defeating the purpose of a tax increase.
It just seems odd that the Kansas government is on both sides of the fence. Legislators are working to get people to quit smoking, however they are also trying to use smokers as a way to boost the budget.
Again I am not a smoker, but to those who are, I say "Keep on Smoking!" Just because the government has taken nearly every opportunity away from you to smoke does not mean that you have to give up on your chance to save the state's school system and social services.
It is ironic that the state takes so much away from those who smoke but are now looking to the same people to fix the budget.