Maine's legislature recently raised the state tax on beer and wine, and added a "soda tax" on soda syrup and bottled soda. They were looking for funding for the Dirigo Health Program, a medical coverage plan for Maine's uninsured. They ran into problems raising the tax on cigarettes and putting taxes on snacks, so lumped the whole thing on beverages.
Now they've got a tax revolt on their hands. Mainers are going to the polls today and are faced with petitions to put voter initiatives on next year's ballot. Among the eleven facing them is one to repeal the drinks tax increase. Opponents are painting the petition as kicking the uninsured out of hospitals into the street, all for a cheaper glass of beer. They're also crying because the beverage tax petition makes no proposals for replacing the tax revenue.
Let's leave the controversy over Dirigo out of this; I'll just mention that there is controversy, and that, well, it's Maine and I don't fully understand it. Let's say Dirigo is indeed a good idea, which helping poor people in desperate need for health care usually is. If it's such a good idea, why couldn't the Maine legislature summon up the political support for a broader-based tax to fund it? A bump in the state sales or income tax? Why put it on the back of beer and wine drinkers, soda drinkers?
Why, because everyone knows that the folks who drink booze are all alcoholics and a drain on the state's medical resources. And everyone knows that soda-drinking leads to obesity and a drain on the state's medical resources. Why does everyone know this? Because the people who make a living off screaming about this have told them. Not that they'd be biased, or maybe present things in a slanted way to support their case...
Here's my view, the same as always. If Dirigo is a good idea for Maine, for all of Maine, then all of Maine should help pay for it. If the anti-tax petition makes no proposals for that, well, don't blame them, blame the legislature for using excise taxes when they should know better. Excise taxes on anything suck. They are inherently unfair. If I'm going to be taxed, it's only fair that I know everyone is being taxed; not at the same rate, but taxed.
So I'd tell Mainers to sign the anti-tax petition, then go home and write their legislators. Tell them that if they want Dirigo funded, man up and put it on the backs of all of Maine. Not just the people who like a drink.