Posted: 02/19/15 13:47
by Dave Mindeman
Rep. Greg Davids is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Republican lackeys. He epitomizes what the GOP in Minnesota is all about. He stretches the truth like a rubber band and he offers critiques on anything proposed by Democrats and he hasn't met a tax he couldn't hate. Being Chair of the House Tax Committee helps that along.
But speaking of taxes, he's cutting us a new angle....
The House tax committee debated a bill Wednesday that would prevent cigarette taxes from increasing in the future. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, who chairs the tax committee. His bill would put the breaks on automatic annual increases in the cigarette excise tax.
Cigarette taxes have less to do with raising revenue and more to work as a smoking deterrent. Former Gov. Pawlenty recognized that when he called a cigarette tax increase - a health user fee (his own need for semantics at the time).
Still, it has produced revenue. Davids change would cost the state....
The change would cost the state about $11 million in 2016-17 and roughly $38 million in 2018-19, according to the Department of Revenue. Analysts projected the anticipated decrease in sales of cigarettes would slow if the bill were to pass.
I'd like to hear Davids expound on how loss of revenue from his cigarette tax bill compares to the $800,000 in costs coming from Gov. Dayton's increase in Commissioner salaries, but I imagine Davids wouldn't see the point.
So we would lose revenue and cigarette sales would not decrease as anticipated. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. But Davids gives us his real purpose....
Davids said the tax encourages cigarette smuggling across state lines.
Sounds kind of ominous. But Davids isn't eliminating the tax or even reducing it - what he is doing is preventing automated increases that were put in the original bill to continue to deter smoking in Minnesota.
So how that is going to have any big impact on the current state of "smuggling" is hard to understand. Border cities have to contend with differences in state cigarette taxes and gasoline taxes. There is a fine line between advocacy for these border communities and statewide public policy. In the case of cigarettes, statewide policy has and should continue to have the higher priority. After all, cigarette use has an impact on our health and human service budget as well. And we have made important progress in the reduction of smoking in Minnesota.
What Rep. Davids is doing here is a strange set of priorities. He wants to reverse course on a successful state policy and take away the revenue it generates at the same time.
The GOP House acts in mysterious ways.