I understand that states are strapped for cash, but I’ve heard two recent proposals from California and New York governors that strike me as going too far. It’s one thing to try to close the gap by increasing the sales tax, but another thing entirely to drive us into a total nanny state. These attempts to get more money out of taxpayers and non-taxpayers alike make me stabby.
California: Catch Speeders on Red Light Cameras
Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal is to reconfigure red light cameras to catch speeders, too. For those going 1-15 miles an hour over the limit, the fine would be $225. For those going more than 15 miles an hour over the limit, the fine would be $325. Now I appreciate the goal of reducing speeding, but I have a problem with the fine kicking it at 1 mile an hour over the limit. Speedometers are not that exact. AAA even offers speedometer testing because they can be off! My car was routinely five miles per hour off until I got a new timing belt. I don’t think it’s fair to penalize people for speeding if they don’t even realize they’re speeding! Rules like this should start at least 5 miles per hour over the limit. It’s what most cops do, and the cameras should be the same.
New York: Taxes on Non-Diet Sodas
Today Governor Patterson announced a proposal to add another $1 tax to cigarettes and a 15 percent tax on non-diet sodas. He says the second one is necessary to combat obesity. I don’t necessarily have a problem with taxing cigarettes because states do often bear the burden of smoking-related health costs once smokers enter the Medicare system. There is no such thing as safe smoking.
You can’t put non-diet sodas in the same category. Millions of people drink an occasional soda without getting fat. Should I have to pay extra for my one soda a month because I don’t like the taste of diet soda? Are we going to put a 15% tax on candy bars and fast food, too? What about potato chips? Pizza? Doughnuts? Sugary coffee-beverages? Heck, let’s just tax everything that isn’t a vegetable. The root of the problem is the way people in our country eat, not a specific food item, so taxing one food item will have no effect on obesity. Those people will just eat or drink something else to get their sugar fix.
States need to learn to balance their budgets without introducing poorly-considered fees in the name of the public good. Is a soda tax really going to close New York’s budget hole? How about those red light cameras? I doubt it.
If you live in California or New York and disagree with these proposals, make your voice heard. It’s the only thing that will stop the stupidity. Or suggest your own stupid tax. Here’s one: let’s reconfigure the red light cameras to catch people texting or talking on the phone while driving. I’m sure the Governor will love that one until he gets the bill for his wife’s tickets.