News from Patrick Flynn

Taxing tobacco

Last week I received a few e-mails from folks surprised (and disappointed) that I voted against a recent tobacco tax increase.  Here’s a redacted copy of my response:

Thank you for getting back in touch.  I knew my decision would disappoint you as well as several others whose opinions and efforts at tobacco use prevention & cessation I greatly respect.  For me, the difficulty of this issue stemmed from its juxtaposition of two important public policy goals; public health and the financial well-being of the working poor.

To place this in a greater context, please remember that we are working in a budgetary environment where the administration seeks to balance the budget via a regressive fee structure (higher motor vehicle registration fees, bus pass costs, etc.) in order to minimize impacts on property tax owners.  While I do not disagree with efforts to diversify our city’s revenue stream I do think we should work to ensure the fiscal effects avoid placing the greatest portion of the load on the less affluent; and I struggled to balance that with the public policy win of increased costs preventing young people from starting to smoke.

Had two factors been in place I would have been comfortable supporting this proposal:

  1. Some portion of the revenue designated to augment the excellent smoking cessation programs currently in place.
  2. A more progressive, or at least non-regressive, revenue plan for the near future.

These factors are certainly not your responsibility (they are, in part, mine and I’m having a dickens of a time affecting a change in direction) nor are they excuses.  I cast my vote and accept the consequences.  Because you took the time to express your concerns I felt you deserved this explanation.

Thank you again for taking the time to engage me on this matter.

Some Assembly decisions are pretty simple while others are pretty tough; this one fell into the latter category.



This contribution was made on Sunday, 14. November 2010 at 06:36 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Patrick, I listened to the public testimony via live broadcast on Channel 10. This isn’t about health. If it were, then there would have been an ordinance banning the sale, use, or possession of all tobacco products within the MOA.
    The governments buy into this concept of taxing tobacco products because they get a direct financial benefit from it. Greed again raises its ugly head! Where do you think the kids get the money for their tobacco…check the vehicles they drive, apparently money isn’t a problem for them like it is for me.
    Wanna continue the trend…tax alcohol then. It is widely used, has devastating consequences to the abuser and for those around them. It kills, directly and indirectly and is involved in a greater percentage of crime that most other drugs, including heroin. We all know that but taxing alcohol isn’t popular.
    I have smoked for 62 years. Cigarettes killed me along time ago, I just haven’t fallen over yet.

    Comment: Bobbi Wells – 21. November 2010 @ 3:55 am

  2. I applaud your decision to not jump over the cliff with the lemming. I have never smoked but I do own property in the MOA. Rather than isolate certain people who own land, or who smoke, the only fair thing to do would be to install a SALES TAX. Then the high percent of people who only live in Anchorage for a short amount of time could also pay their fair share. As it is now, the MOA provides a disincentive to own property or live where selective taxing policies encourage living in the valley and only going to Anchorage when necessary to get commodities for their exact price.

    Comment: donn liston – 22. November 2010 @ 10:57 am

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