Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let me tell you how it will be....

Ghod save us all, I've bn doing some calculating recently about Washington state's intention 2 add another $1 in built-in tax on each package of cigarettes sold. (Which I raved about Xtensively a couple wks back under the title "Taxman.")
The built-in tax currently hovers around $3/pack, which means a pack of 20 Marlboro "Reds" sold at my store costs $7.27 after the 8.9% sales tax (which totals 58 cents per pack).
I'm going 2 keep using that $3/pack figure cos it's EZer 4 me 2 multiply-out w/ my 3rd-grade mathematics education. Bsides, the #'s R gonna get huge enuf pretty fast....
I don't smoke, & smokers can continue w/ these outrageous prices if they want, that's their choice. I'm way more concerned about where the tax $$$ goes. & it piles up pretty quick.
Last wk I kept track of the # of packs of smokes I sold during an avg Thursday nite shift -- 25. My store's afternoon guy Steve sez he can sell 30 packs of smokes per shift EZ. Let's say 30's about avg 4 each shift, since that'll balance-out slow shifts (Sun morn) & busy nites (Fri & Sat). It's also EZer 4 me 2 multiply w/....
If I were 2 sell 30 packs of smokes per shift & $3 of each pack sold is built-in tax that goes directly 2 the state, that's $90 per shift, not even counting the sales-tax, some of which I'm told gets used 4 local svcs. (The sales-tax avgs about $15 per shift or $45 per day, just on 30 packs of smokes, not counting NEthing else.)
If my store sells an avg of 30 packs of smokes per shift, 3 shifts per day, that's $270 per day in cigarette-tax going 2 the state, not counting the sales tax. That's $1,890 per wk. That's $7,560 per month. That's $90,720 per year. & that's just from my store.
Let's say the state does hike cigarette taxes another $1 per pack. If I sell 30 packs inna shift that'll B $120 per shift going 2 the state. Or $360 per day. Or $2,520 per week. Or $10,080 per month. $120,960 per year.
My math may not B perfect, but w/ #'s this big I don't think it matters much. & all this revenue is just from 1 little store in 1 little town. & as I'm sure U know, there R convenience stores EVERYWHERE. I've got no idea how many little stores there R in the state of Washington. & that's not even taking in2 account all the big grocery stores & what must B the truly HUGE #'s they R & would B contributing 2 the state's general fund.
The way I C it, a yr of cigarette sales at my little store pays 4 1 state employee's salary & benefits. Since the cigarette-tax revenue goes 2 the general fund, it can B used 4 NEthing the state wants 2 spend it on -- roads, schools, major highway projects, salaries....
Some of this revenue MAY get used locally 2 support county-level programs, police, fire protection, etc. But my understanding is that mosta that stuff is funded at the local level thru property taxes & some of the state sales tax. Most school operations costs R funded locally thru property taxes or levies.
...I just think it's a lot of $$$. & I don't think the state does sucha great job Xplaining where it all goes.
The state is reportedly $2.8-billion short of funding 4 the projected state-gov't budget 4 the next 2 yrs. Gov. Christine Gregoire (who 1 of my customers called "Christine Gargoyle" last wk) was apparently on TV a few days back, saying: "We don't want to do this (raise taxes). But we have no choice." She even called a special session of the state Legislature 2 work-out ways HOW they're gonna fund the budget, new taxes or not.
Along w/ the Xtra $1 tax on smokes, the Legislature is looking at new built-in taxes on bottled water (3 cents per ounce, an additional 60 cents 4 a 20-oz bottle), sodas, energy drinks ... & candy. Water & candy currently Rn't taxed at all, there's no sales tax charged on them.
Why every school kid in the state isn't protesting outside the state capitol in Olympia, I don't know. At least some of the grown-ups have jobs, which may B what the lawmakers R counting on....
I don't know about NEbody else, but I just assume that the new taxes R going 2 B approved. That's usually what Nds up happening here....
I know U folks out there may not care about all this if yr not in Washington, but compare R cigarette prices 2 where U live. If yr a smoker U might especially wanna compare prices & C how much more U'd havta spend if U lived here.
& I think the question's still open about how much the state can legitimately tax 1 item. Coupla folks have suggested 2 me that the heavy tax on smokes is an effort 2 turn Washington in2 a "smoke-free" state. That doesn't really concern me. But I'd like a better picture of where all the tax $$$'s going.
The state's Lotto folks at least publish a yearly report of where all their revenue went -- & a lot of it goes 2 schools & road projects & paying-off 2 sports stadiums in Seattle ... but a lot of the Lotto $$$ also goes directly 2 the state's general fund, which means it can B used NEwhere.
Still, I think the resta the state gov't should havta publicly account 4 where people's taxes go. It's just 2 huge an amount of $$$. Some state Mployees' salaries have bn 2 high 4 yrs. & I still don't hear the Gov or NE1 else offering 2 take a 10% pay cut 2 help get the state thru these tough budget times....
1 last Xample: At my store, 2 packs of Marb Reds cost $14.53 after sales tax. Back home in Idaho, where there is no built-in tax on smokes, my Dad tells me that 2 packs of Marb Reds cost $7.31 after sales tax.
Smokers' eyes bug out when I tell them this, & we all agree that nobody zings ya w/ the taxes like Washington.
Somebody who wanted 2 make a quick profit could haul a truckload of smokes from Idaho in2
Washington & sell em at the state's current outrageous prices. But I'm sure there must B laws against that.... Or else Washington would tax U 4 the smokes U bring in....
...& if all the smokers were 2 quit Bcos of the out-of-control prices, & cheated the state outta all that tax revenue that lawmakers had bn counting on ... I have absolutely no doubt that this state would find something else 2 tax in order 2 make-up 4 it....

3 comments:

rastronomicals said...

Cigarettes in Florida are between 5 and 6 bucks a pack. I used to have a a pack-and-a- half to two-pack-a-day habit; my mind boggles to think what it would be costing me if I hadn't cut WAY down.

I can't say I really disagree strongly with these types of harsh "sin" taxes. Better to tax cigarettes and booze at a steep rate than to tax necessities at all, you know?

But for the state to put all their eggs in the cigarette basket can produce some conflicts of interest, I think. Since I used to smoke prodigiously, and still occasionally do a few times a year, I'm opposed on principle to these government efforts to make location X "smoke free." People should have the right to smoke if they want. But at the same time because of public health issues--because the fucking things DO kill you--I understand why the government would have an interest in discouraging smoking.

But why should they, when so much of their revenue flows from the sale of tobacco? I mean I suppose it's understandable if the state of North Carolina props up the tobacco industry, but why should it be that the State of Washington has a legitimate interest in doing the same?

And since we're talking, if the revenue stream is such a big deal where we're even talking about making the purchase price of ANY item mostly tax, and if it is OK to tax the sin, then why don't we just legalize weed already? I have no, repeat NO, ulterior motives in making such a statement any longer: it just makes sense.

I seriously doubt the state of California would be broke if it could rely on taxes from the over-the-counter sale of marijuana.

drewzepmeister said...

That's funny, here in Wisconsin, cigs here are about five to seven bucks a pack. I know we are taxed up the ass around here.

While I was in California, I paid $4.50 for a pack of Marlboros (They don't have my cheap stuff there). Out there, there is NO SMOKING pretty much everywhere out there. People out are more health conscious out there than we are.

Yet, California is fiscally broke and Wisconsin is on it's way. So go figure...

tad said...

Thanx 4 commenting, guys.
A coupla things: When folks tell me they're gonna quit smoking if the tax goes up again (it's gone up $3 in the 6 yrs I've worked at the store), I agree that'd B a great way 2 gouge the state outta all the tax revenue they were counting on. But then me & the customers agree that the state'd just find SOMETHING ELSE 2 tax instead....
Legalizing pot was VERY briefly discussed at the state level -- Cms like it'd B a REAL good source of revenue, & if the state controlled the manufacture & sale 4 tax purposes, the quality of weed would B ... higher, right? (Sorry.) Of course, this suggestion was not taken seriously....
I'm not so much worked-up about the tax itself, more about what the revenue is used 4 & why, & this state's 10dency 2 tax NEthing that moves, as I raved about in my last installment of this ongoing epic. I still think there R sevral dept's of state gov't that could B cut, but no1's suggesting it -- & I still don't hear NE state Mployees or elected officials offering 2 take a pay cut....
$5 a pack 4 smokes would B very reasonable here. The cheapest pack of smokes I can sell is $6.18 after sales-tax. $7/pack in Wisconsin? That sorta suprises me. The highest price I've heard of is $10/pack in New York (NYC, I assume), which sevral people have told me about....
Even Calif hasn't zinged people w/ taxes like Wash has -- at least not yet, but Cali's got worse budget trouble than Wash.... Thanx again 4 commenting. -- TAD.