Mitchell – Higher taxes for lower tags ‘a scam on taxpayers’

Let me be formal: I hereby decline to accept the notion that a tax increase is essential to balance a formula the state created 15 years ago and keep car tag costs in check.

It’s a scam lawmakers started as they edged toward taking a few weeks off to await more details on how much money they’ll control when someone gets around to reading the federal stimulus bill Congress passed (without reading) in February.

It’s a scam that will be renewed when lawmakers return to Jackson to complete the budget and, perhaps, push for a House-Senate compromise on how much to raise state excise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

This year’s argument is that due to the national recession and sluggish sales of new vehicles, the state’s stash of cash it would normally collect and rebate to local governments is falling short — about $30 million or so short.

So, the consensus in the Legislature seems to be that a tax — most likely the cigarette tax — will have to be raised to keep things even.

The fallacy, obviously, is that things will not be even. And unless a person is silly enough to believe that once the economy gins back up and car sales rise that the Legislature will cut whatever tax is increased, the result will be another net gain for public treasuries and more money coming out of people’s wallets.

The most offensive thing is how lawmakers talk about the need to “keep things even” only when a situation arises in which the public purse might shrink.

Never — ever — is there any consideration to “keep things even” when there’s a surge in revenue.

With a General Fund that has well more than doubled since the tax swap was passed, it’s inexcusable for any lawmaker to say $30 million absolutely must be collected in new taxes to “keep things even.”

And it’s ridiculous to think taxpayers don’t know it when they’re being mugged.

Charlie Mitchell
The Vicksburg Post