I'll wait here a moment as you stifle your snickers at the title. Done? Okay, let's move on: There are a bushel of propositions on the California ballot this November, and I confess that each time I have found a place to stand that feels correct, a new breeze blows in and I feel the need to assess the new information. Then I wonder when truth became so subjective.
Proposition 86 would raise the state cigarette excise tax by $2.60 a pack. Before I read any of the literature or watched any TV ads, this is how it looked to me: Charging more for a habit that should be discouraged (addiction, if you will) seemed like a pretty fair notion. It might even provide someone on the edge with a reason to quit. There aren't a lot of taxes that we get to choose to pay, so that had its own fun little spin. Now the scary part: There must be a pretty solid market out there still for cigarettes if the government is willing to attach future earnings to it. What would smokers be paying for? Health care programs. Still making sense, right? Commercials for the No on 86 campaign have been arguing that much of the money taxed from tobacco firms won't go toward anti-smoking efforts, but would rather enrich large hospitals. In my mind I can picture hospital bureaucrats not lighting cigars with fifty dollar bills.
Proposition 87 would tax oil production in California. Sounds like a similar pattern: Tax a dangerous addiction to get money back from what is essentially a closed system. When the wells run dry, we'll be glad that we managed to keep some of that money here in our state. Opponents of Proposition 87 have been trumpeting that taxing oil production in California will simply drive up the price of gas at the pump. My knee-jerk reaction (I have quite a jerky knee around election time) is to ask what, if anything, does not drive up the price of gas at the pump?
Maybe I'm not the guy you should trust on this either, since I get paid from your taxes. Thank you for the raise, by the way. But if you're not going to trust me, would you rather trust Philip Morris? Or Chevron? Stay tuned. The truth is out there.