January 13, 2008

Tastes Great, Less Filling, Costs More

An influential Democratic lawmaker from Brooklyn is proposing legislation that flies in the face of Governor Spitzer's pledge to resist any new taxes.

Our old friend Felix Ortiz, whom we mentioned in a recent post related to proposing legislation to license strippers, has another brilliant idea to turn the state around. Ortiz now wants to add a 25-cent tax on every alcoholic beverage sold in New York State. What would that mean to you and I? It means a 24-count case of beer would be $6.00 higher.

Ortiz, who is Chairman of the Assembly Alcoholism Committee, says tacking a 25-cent tax on every alcoholic beverage sold in New York will help tame what he calls an epidemic of underage drinking.

It's good to see that Assemblyman Ortiz has his priorities in order. First licensing pole dancers, now taxing alcohol on the people of New York who legally purchase and responsibly consume alcohol. Why stop there Felix? Why not toss a massive tax onto the fast food industry? Everyone knows that fast food significantly contributes to obesity in this country.

Why stop there? Why not tax MA-rated video games? They're hazardous to the mental well-being of kids, aren't they? Hell, how about taxing the entire Internet? It's chock full of things that are bad for us.

Come on, Felix, get back to Albany and offer some legislation that addresses the core concerns of the people of this state: Jobs and taxes. That is, of course, if you can pull yourself away from conducting further "research" on the licensing of pole dancers.


Larry Castellani said...

You go Hobbes! Great post! I think I’m starting to get on board with this tax concern. What is it with this virtual obsessive lust to tax anything that looks like it’s fair game? But if anything is fair game, Hobbes’ suggestions with respect to the mind-numbing computer games and appetite-accelerating cuisine of the fast food industry, is a good start. … Spitzer’s proposed cap on local school tax also sounds like the right way to go. If I understand what’s going on here, then richer districts can continue to tax and spend on their kids and poorer districts won’t be forced to. But of course the problem still is, with respect to education, that the poorer districts still need more funding but couldn’t get it from their own districts if they had to. Am I right here?

Yes, this is a blog about local issues but concerning taxes, isn’t it the case that federal taxes bleed us more than local? Aren’t federal taxes a local issue especially given that we need all our money here that we can keep here? Especially when the alternative is funding military adventurism and the 760 or so bases that secure our unnecessary empire.

Pete M said...

I've got to say, both of the propositions from this guy are just plain ridiculous. I'm going to follow the progress of these two issues. If they are signed by the Guv, please post it. It's just stunning that this is the type of legislation that is being brought forward when our state is facing a $4 billion budget deficit. Maybe this is their idea to close that budget gap.

proud democrat said...

Are you kidding me. How on earth does this guy keep getting re-elected. It`s dimwits like this that give politicians a bad name. MORON. I`m a democrat and I could never vote for this guy.

Clark Griswold said...

The worst part about this is that Ortiz is using the "underage drinking epidemic" as a scapegoat here. We all know that the reason behind his proposition is to get tax dollars from all New Yorkers, not his concern for a 20 year old who has a beer. Sale of alcoholic beverages to minors in this state may be an issue, but it's hard for me to believe that this is the issue that is driving his ludicrous idea.

pirate's code said...

Larry --

Holy cow, there you go ramping this up again.

Federal taxes are indeed an issue. But, your federal taxes are going to be the same regardless of where you are because, well, it's federal, see? Make $50k in NY, and your taxes before deductions are X. Make the same $50k in Nebraska, and your taxes before deductions will still be X. We could have a lenghty dialogue about the relative fairness of federal taxes between and among income levels, but from geographic location to location they are the same.

What makes NY somewhat unique is our overwhelming state and local taxes -- sales tax being one of the more insidious and regressive. Some will argue that sales taxes are both fair and appropriate because it assures that tourists, for instance, are helping pay for services. What that theory fails to recognize is that sales taxes often hurt those most that can least afford to pay it.

Someone wants to tax cigarettes -- I'm OK because it is bad for you and potentially hurts others. Booze? I don't care, really, since it's not a staple of my diet. Gasoline? Well, maybe if the price goes up we'd all stop guzzling so much of it.

You see, any individual sales tax can easily be justified by some spin or another. But when you stop to think about just how much sales tax, in total, we all pay in addition to state income and local property taxes, well that's when NY becomes different than so many other places. Should we be paying sales tax on utilities? How about sales tax on a used car? Wasn't the tax paid on that product once already? Clothing is a necessity, is it not? Why should clothing be taxed?

What you don't see in stories like this beer tax, or the one about Spitzer considering selling the rights to state-run lotteries to raise cash now, or almost any story about local school budgets, is an effort to limit government spending so taxes wouldn't have to be raised.

I'd be happy to have a discussion about funding of the federal military-industrial complex with you, but this post and most of the comments therein serve to point out that NY has raised taxation to an art form.

GOP shill said...

Yes, let's hope the Dems take control of the state senate so we can have people like Ortiz and Eric Adams (the "I deserve a pay raise") guy in positions of power.

Opie said...

Lets see, Im under 21 and am a college student. Im not the richest kid around so instead of paying the extra 6 dollars on a 24 pack why not just buy a bottle of jack that has only and extra 25 cent tax. Theres no way that law would stop underage drinking. Dumb

Larry Castellani said...

Pirate’s code:

It doesn’t matter whether federal taxes are going to be the same across the board or not. Imperialist taxes are imperialist taxes. If you want to factor them out for ideological reasons be my guest, but they are still sucking ALL of us dry for no good nor necessary reason at all.

Otherwise, believe it or not, I agree with you, and you are undoubtedly right about local/state blood letting. And I see the qualitatively unique position of NY state. But where then do you recommend that government spending has to be cut? I hope I’m not going to be out of a job with your recommendation. And my concern is not just my being out of a job but that education will be so drastically cut that within a few decades we will again be communicating with grunts and roars. I’m all ears!

pirate's code said...

Larry -- Again, the purpose of my post was not to argue whether or not federal taxes are fair (although I will argue that some level of federal government, thus taxes to support it, is necessary). I was simply pointing out that what differentiates NY from so much of the rest of the country is our state and local taxes of all sorts. Said another way, it is what makes us uncompetitive with so many other areas.

And, no, I don't want to put you out of a job. I'm one of those who has no issue paying educators well, so long as there is some accountability. I'm not a big fan of tenure, for instance. Surely there must be some sort of measuring stick that allows administrators, other educators and students/parents/taxpayers to identify and reward quality performers, and deal with those who simply might not be as good at the job as, say, you. There are lots of things that need to happen to turn our local, state and national economy around, and quality education for as many as possible is near the top of my list.

That said, let's start with education spending. Does a county our size (roughly 215,000 souls) really need ten public school systems, and all the administration and infrastructure that goes to supporting them? Are we getting value for our dollar? Do the results justify the spending, and is more spending always the answer?

Do we really need five levels of local government at all -- school districts, county govt., cities, towns and villages? It would seem that at least some of our tax dollars go to fund the parochialism that makes it so hard to get anything done around here.

Surely there must be efficiencies that can be found so that necessary services can be delivered at the lowest possible proce. How much money that could be going to help those who really need it gets wasted because of multiple layers of bureaucracy?

I could throw out ideas and examples all day, but it needs to start with the political will and courage to implement. The offices of government throughout the region are, I'm sure, full of binders with great ideas, but so many just languish because there is little in the way of political will to implement change.

Change is hard, I know. Pushing people outside their comfort zones is never easy. But something needs to give, because NY runs the risk of taxing itself out of existence. Last one left turns out the lights.