Bad move

Published 7:50 am Friday, February 5, 2010

The General Assembly did a disservice to Isle of Wight and other localities when it killed legislation this session that would have allowed the county and others to levy a tax on cigarettes.

Two bills, sponsored by Delegate William Barlow, D-Smithfield, would have brought in revenue for the county at a critical time — when the state budget is in a crisis resulting in cutbacks at the local level and when the county loses International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill and millions of dollars in associated tax revenue. Both bills were killed in subcommittee.

Barlow got to the crux of the matter while speaking to The Tidewater News last week.

“Every city in Virginia can tax cigarettes, every town in Virginia can tax cigarettes and even two counties — Fairfax and Arlington — can tax cigarettes,” Barlow said. “It doesn’t seem like to me that’s fair.”

In killing the legislation, the subcommittees essentially chose between taxing a habit or taxing property owners.

Faced with fewer funds from the state and fewer places to cut spending, Isle of Wight will look at raising property taxes to offset the hurt that’s coming.

At a time when property owners are already strapped for cash and possibly facing job losses, doesn’t taxing tobacco seem like the more logical choice?