As part of our election education series for the California June 5th election I am going to help filter thru the arguments from both sides on this new tax measure.
First, Proposition 29 is going to increase cigarette taxes from 87 cents to 1.87 a pack. The additional tax revenue will be used to fund cancer research, smoking reduction programs, and tobacco law enforcement.
This tax revenue will be used to establish a commission to help in cancer treatment programs and other tobacco related disorders. The commission will be a nine member body to help manage the funds from the organization.
The proponents of Proposition 29 have been out funded by the opponents of this tax increase namely the tobacco industry which has spent almost 40 million compared to the supporters 6 million dollars. Opponents are mailing flyers to explain that we do not need to be spending or taxing our way to salvation. Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds may express that this new commission is redundant since we have the National Institutes of Health, but other states even Texas has taxed themselves to fund scientific studies in 2006.
Out of the flyer 1 of the 3 arguments from the opponents does have pull. Proposition 29 can not be changed for 15 years and can not be modified by the Governor, State Legislature or the State Auditor can change the initiative to correct problems of waste, fraud or abuse in section 6. I think if Proposition 29 dies, they should go back to the drawing board and state that a 3/5ths vote in the state legislature would be required to modify the ballot measure where the changes would be temporary until voters approve any changes in the next even election year.
Allowing tax dollars to be spent out of California is one politically sensitive charge that has pull with the voters in a crippling budget crisis we have this year with 16 billion dollars in debt. Even though the commission is mostly dominated by California interests where we will have scholars from our UC system leading the charge in these studies, the opponents of Proposition 29 are obfuscating the issue because they are trying to protect their revenue stream and not your health. UC scholars and cancer institutions such as City of Hope have provided many innovations in the study of cancer through the years and these funds will help our state save lives and create jobs.
Personally, I like the idea of Proposition 29. However when the sin taxes make smoking cigarettes unpopular to where the First 5 commission and the Cancer commission has no funds due to no one smoking, then our legislators and political consultants will say lets sin tax the fast food, the sugary drinks and the bakery delights to make sure we have no more obese people. We need to factor in simple economic principles before we implement any new taxes or perhaps have the tax increase 50 cents instead of a dollar.
Also even though Proposition 29 is a tax increase, it will end up saving money in the long run. I thought Republicans want us to spend less money and keep government small. If less people consume tobacco products, we will have less spending in our social welfare system with Medi-Cal and our county hospitals due to all the complications from consuming their products such as the taxpayers paying for oxygen tanks and surgeries from clogged arteries.
I was captivated by the marketing skill of the tobacco industry, but if you want to be an informed voter read both arguments before heading to the polls. Even though Californians were burned by the Stem Cell commission where in fact I opposed it because I believed it was likely to be ineffectively ran, this tax increase will provide a more effective public good for the people of California.
If tobacco companies want to protect their profits in the future, they need to transition out of the tobacco industry and find other products that would provide a beneficial good for their consumers and does not give them a nasty bill of goods at the wrong time.