Hopewell Valley News, April 27, 2006
Pays enough taxes
To the editor:
In a recent editorial in the Hopewell Valley News (“Drinkers should face increase in sin tax, too”) the writer made some statements and assertions that I would like to respond to.
She makes the statement that “the proposed hikes (on alcohol) are nothing compared to what is planned for cigarettes,” but that is simply not true. The “sin tax” increase the writer is speaking of increases the total tax revenue per pack of cigarettes to $2.75 from $2.40 a pack. That 35-cent increase correlates to to a 15 percent increase in taxes per pack (and may, in fact, cause the tax burden on cigarettes to exceed more than half the retail price of a pack of cigarettes). Compare that 15 percent tax increase with the 42 percent increase in the taxes on a gallon of beer the state is proposing (from 12 cents to 17 cents a gallon) or the 14 percent increase proposed on wine (from 70 cents to 80 cents a gallon). The taxes on a gallon of (hard) liquor is only being teased by 2 percent (from $4.40 to $4.50 a gallon), but given the current burden imposed on (hard) liquor that makes some sense.
Think about that cigarette level – $2.75/pack equals $5.50/day for a two pack a day smoker, and who pays that tax? Are they really best served by increasing the taxes on cigarettes?
Were the taxes on beer to be raised by the nearly 300 percent proposed by the writer, the net impact on the price of a six pack of beer (which approximates one gallon) would be to raise the price by about 35 cents – can anyone really say with a straight face that underage drinking is a problem that is 35 cents a six pax away from being solved (or even impacted in any meaningful way)? Underage drinking is already illegal, and the purchase of alcohol by a minor is also illegal, but I suspect that now, just as before, underage drinkers pay a premium over the retail price for alcohol (by paying someone’s “cool older brother” to get them some beer), making them insensitive to the actual price of the alcohol.
Alcoholics drink because they are addicted, not because it is affordable.
The causes for the recent alcohol-related issues the author asks us to “take foe example” have causes unrelated to the price of alcohol. Did the teens at the March 18 drinking party on Prospect street get together because beer was affordable – I suspect not (the writer does include mention that a 16 year old was left alone in the house). Was the the house in Elm Ridge park that was invaded in late 2003 caused by affordable beer? No – in my opinion the key that was left outside the house, coupled with a group of children that thought it was OK to do it were the real causes. And without knowing knowing what actually happened to that poor freshman at TCNJ, it is premature to assume that an increased tax burden on beer could have saved him.
The purpose of taxes is to fund the operation of the government to provide required services to the community, not for influencing social behavior. Let’s try increasing the level of parenting and teaching some responsibility to the children in our community – personally, I feel I pay enough taxes.