George Boardman: We don’t want to pay no stinking taxes for libraries, pot or cigarettes
October 16, 2016
Observations from the center stripe: Timing edition
ARE WE going to get the independent investigator’s report on the Nevada Union “fight club” before election day? … SIGN OF the apocalypse: The Sacramento Kings will start wearing ads on their uniforms next season … DESIGN FLAW?: Some people are complaining that the cheap seats at the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento don’t have cup holders for the $14 beers … SAMSUNG probably isn’t thrilled to have the hottest smart phone out there these days … ALL BUT one of America’s Nobel laureates this year are immigrants … AMERICANS USED to snicker at France’s casual attitude toward the sexual adventures of its elected officials. Do you suppose the French are laughing at us now? …
I can't say I'm surprised that the Nevada County Republican Party's central committee voted to oppose Measure A, which would increase the portion of the sales tax dedicated to our libraries to one-fourth of a percentage point.
After all, they are Republicans, who apparently only like to spend money on law enforcement and the military. And the odds were not great the tax proposal would get an affirmative nod since at least seven members of the committee had already expressed the opposition to Measure B, the high school bond proposal.
(For the record, the committee also voted to oppose Measure B, but decided to take no position on Measure C, the Nevada City tax increase. They are also opposed state propositions involving more taxes or bonds, including the $2 tax on cigarettes.)
What really surprised me was the lame excuse they offered for opposing the tax increase: "The Nevada County Board of Supervisors had it within their power to fund any necessary library changes … The committee supports the public library and the good work the library does, but not the increase in the sales tax."
Where does the committee think the supervisors would get the money to fund the libraries? They would either have to take it from existing programs, or … raise taxes! Of course, I'm guessing the Republicans would oppose that tax increase too.
It would appear they're looking for an excuse — any excuse — to oppose the library tax increase.
Legit? Maybe not
You would think California's "responsible" pot growers — you know, the farmers who provide medication to those who desperately need it — would jump at the chance to step out of the shadows and become legal under Proposition 64.
Well, maybe not.
The California Growers Association isn't taking sides on the issue after a poll of 750 pot farmers, distributors and retailers showed 31 percent support 64, 31 percent oppose it, and 38 percent are undecided.
The Humboldt Growers Association, based in the state's legendary "Emerald Triangle," opposes the measure, as does our very own Patricia Smith, Nevada County chair of Americans for Safe Access. (If she and Sheriff Keith Royal can find common ground on anything involving pot, nothing's impossible.)
Writing in The Union, Smith sounds like a Republican when she complains Proposition 64 will tax medical pot, and that the estimated $1 billion in new taxes "is all earmarked for administration and enforcement costs which will create hundreds, if not thousands, of new government jobs that will only increase our indebtedness."
Then she sounds like a Bernie Sanders progressive, warning that "Prop 64 opens the door that will allow massive corporations to take over the industry in five years time," something that also concerns Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the CGA, who is opposing the measure as an individual.
"I don't want to replace a criminal injustice with an economic injustice," he told Reuters earlier this month. Allen also expressed concern over too much red tape and burdensome oversight by the state, a concern seconded by Steve Dodge, CEO of the Humboldt Growers Collective.
"We are asking farmers to come out from behind the curtain, but not providing the assurances they need," Dodge said, because Prop 64 allows regulatory inspections that some pot growers view as tantamount to warrantless searches.
Then there's the environmental issue. Some growers hurt the environment, draining creeks when they're not polluting them, and leaving behind mountains of trash, some of it toxic. If 64 passes, the state could revoke the licenses of bad actors. Implementation of environmental regulations could cost $20,000 to $100,000 a farm.
To summarize: Proposition 64 will require growers to become licensed, pay taxes, obey environmental laws, and face competition that will compel them to provide a product of uniform quality at a competitive price.
Those sound like good reasons to vote for Proposition 64.
Big tobacco has put up more than $60 million to defeat Proposition 56, which would increase the state tax on cigarettes by $2 a pack. As you might expect, they are using the money to create a smoke screen that obscures the intent of the proposition.
The main line of attack they are taking is the claim that the $1.4 billion in new taxes the measure is expected to raise would not be used to help people to quit smoking. As one opponent wrote recently: "Just 13 percent (of the new tax revenue) will go to tobacco cessation and education programs. The vast majority, about 82 percent, will go to …" enriching hospitals and insurers.
The tobacco lobby has found a math teacher (you know, the numbers don't add up) and a doctor who claims to be concerned about the welfare of his patients to sell this misleading argument. What they don't bother to tell you is that much of the 82 percent will go to strengthening MediCal, the health program for the poorest Californians who are most likely to be smokers.
Big tobacco knows that high cigarette prices compel people to quit smoking, something they have acknowledged in various filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Numerous independent studies have concluded that every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall consumption by 3 to 5 percent, including a 6 to 7 percent drop in the number of kids who start smoking.
So the proposition is simple: If you want to encourage adults to quit smoking and discourage kids from ever starting, vote yes on Proposition 56.
CORRECTION: Sloppy note taking and some ham-handed typing turned a mention of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap in last week's column into Dr. Bonner's Magic Soup. I apologize for the error.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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