(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – If you’re looking for Nevada Assemblyman Harvey Munford these days you can probably find him at the intersection of Overtax Avenue and Nannystate Way. The chairman of the Assembly Taxation Committee is preparing to introduce a junk food tax bill.
Munford’s proposal would impose an additional 5% tax on top of the current sales tax for items that would be defined as “junk food.” As bad ideas go, this is one of the worst. It would impose higher taxes on the citizens of Nevada who are already suffering the ravages of the recession and it’s another in the seemingly never-ending attempts by government to control what people do.
With unemployment well into the double digits in the state, this would constitute a tax that would fall disproportionately on those with lower incomes. With the past as a guide, if this legislation has its intended effect, it will create even greater fiscal problems.
Cigarette taxes are a prime example of the folly of relying on this sort of tax revenue. Initially, cigarette tax revenue streamed in and legislators increased spending to match. As the tax level was raised, it had the intended effect of reducing smoking. As smoking decreased, diminishing revenues forced lawmakers to scramble to make up for the lost tax collections.
Proceeds from the tobacco settlement were supposed to fully fund the Millennium Scholarship program. However, less than a decade after it was created, revenues from the settlement had declined to such an extent as a result of a drop in smoking that the program now requires millions of dollars of general fund revenues to continue.
Legislation of this type is indicative of the relentless appetite for control by those who know better than we do how we should live our lives. Freedom must include the freedom to do things that are not healthy or not good for us or risky, as long as they do not create harm or risk for someone else. If it does not, it is not freedom at all.
Once begun, these intrusions never cease. As soon as something has been identified as harmful to justify a tax or some other restriction on its use, the Nanny-staters never stop there. New York City’s progressive chipping away at its residents’ choices has progressed to the point that dishes containing trans fats or salt are banned from restaurant menus. How long before it is illegal to produce anything with taste in the Big Apple? How far are we in the Silver State behind?
Assemblyman Munford should drop this bad idea and concentrate on more important issues. Nevada does not need another tax, nor does it need more government intrusion in the lives and choices of its citizens.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)