A tax hike we like

Published 10:17 am Friday, June 1, 2012

You’ll rarely see an endorsement of a tax increase in this space, but new Franklin City Manager Randy Martin is spot on with his recommendation of a 10-cent increase in Franklin’s cigarette tax in the budget year beginning July 1.

So-called “sin taxes” are perhaps the fairest form of taxation. Only the consumer of the product pays, and the tax, at least theoretically, discourages unhealthful behavior. Heaven knows, we need fewer smokers in this society.

In Martin’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget, boosting the city’s cigarette tax from 50 cents a pack to 60 cents is no magic bullet in a very difficult budget year. It helps, though, and it is an equitable way of generating revenue — unlike, say, the arbitrary and punitive $200 “garbage fee” that Southampton County supervisors have slapped on that locality’s citizens. That fee is a tax that balances the county’s budget on the backs of the hard-working middle- and lower-class working families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Franklin storeowners are opposed to an increase in the cigarette tax because it may drive customers to adjoining localities to purchase their cigarettes. That problem exists already, and it is attributable less to the amount of Franklin’s tax than it is to the fact that Virginia counties are prohibited by law from levying a cigarette tax.

That’s a silly law that the General Assembly should change. Cash-strapped county governments could really use revenue from a cigarette tax.