Kulongoski - and the Numbers - Support Healthy Kids Program

Jon Perr

Governor Ted Kulongoski this morning signed the Healthy Kids bill. The initiative, which will appear as Measure 50 on the November 6th ballot for approval by voters, seeks to use increased tobacco taxes to fund health care coverage for 117,000 Oregon children currently lacking it.

According to a recent report from the Commonwealth Fund, election day can't come to soon for Oregon's uninsured children.

The report, "Aiming Higher: Results from a State Scorecard on Health System Performance," examined states' performance across 32 indicators of health care access, quality, outcomes and hospital use. In its study comparing the relative health care performance of all 50 states Oregon ranked a disappointing 34th. Particularly alarming is the state's dismal performance in several indicators measuring the access and quality of health care for children:

(For more on the good, bad and ugly of the Commonwealth Fund report, see the Oregon page here. For a discussion of the relative performance of other states, visit here.)

Governor Kulongoski predicted a battle with tobacco interests over the ballot measure for Healthy Kids. But for Oregon voters, he said, "I see it as a no brainer."  The numbers certainly appear to back him up.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    The numbers support him because only a small minority of Oregonians smoke, and those are statistically tilted towards the bottom of the economic and educational ladders.

    Ironically, while the number of smokers continues to slowly decline, the number of those who are overweight continues to rise... But eating fattening, under-nutritional foods such as fastfoods appears to be distributed much more evenly across the socioeconomic spectrum. Which explains why an emerging and growing contributor to health care needs of poor kids wasn't targeted. Some of US might have to pay it...

    I continue to be amazed at how many self-described "progressives" seem so supportive of such a patently regressive funding source.

  • David The Troll (unverified)
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    I agree that Children "US Citizens" Should Have Insurance Paid for by the Taxpayer if absolutely necessary. I don't even Care if you tax cigarettes And Booze. I quit About 6 years ago. I do however Think That Taxing The Smokers and Drinkers Is Kinda defeating The Purpose. First The Folks that pay the Tax are mostly the least able and second It won't induce many of them to quit. Only thing It appears to me will accomplish is That Your plan will keep the Poor and Downtrodden exactly that Poor and Down Trodden and probably that is the point of your exercise?

  • Jon (unverified)
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    No doubt, regressive cigarette taxes are not the ideal approach for funding either state (Healthy Kids) or national (S-CHIP) children's health care programs.

    That much said, the current political environment here and nationally make the prospect of general tax revenue increases bleak at best. Until Oregon and American voters provide their verdict in 2008, a progressive overhaul of the tax code is not in the cards.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    David the Troll trolls:

    "I do however Think That Taxing The Smokers and Drinkers Is Kinda defeating The Purpose. First The Folks that pay the Tax are mostly the least able and second It won't induce many of them to quit. Only thing It appears to me will accomplish is That Your plan will keep the Poor and Downtrodden exactly that Poor and Down Trodden and probably that is the point of your exercise?"

    You are probably right about who smokes, but I'd hazard a guess that increasing the beer, wine, and alcohol tax would be a far more progressive solution that you credit it with. Just walk into any brewpub any day of the week. Walk into any high end bar any night of the week. You'll see a pretty good cross-section of poor to very affluent tossing back microbrews, Bud, and the specialized Martinis.

    As far as the smokers, it is a regressive tax. Why should I care. Smoking has no social value whatsoever; it does nothing but drive up the cost of health care to anyone within 100 feet of its wake. Why shouldn't they pay.

  • Eric J. (unverified)
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    OK...we tax the smokes. But, if those people stop smoking or buy the smokes in Washington or buy them on-line because they are being taxed more, wouldn't the revenue go down from the tax if the smokers did this? I still haven't received a good hard answer for this question. I am all for getting care for kids, but wouldn't it be self defeating if, by the nature of increasing taxes, people stopped smoking (which is good for them AND the kids in light of the 2nd hand smoke details) and then stopped buying the taxed items needed to fund thier kids care? Theoretically, if I was a smoker (since I am not a smoker in real time)I would maybe want to increase my smoking and kill myself to fund my childs care - who is (ironically) sick because of my smoking in the first place.

    Kill yourself to help your kid. Kind of a bizarre sacrafice if you think about it.

  • (Show?)

    While decreasing use of tobacco means a reducing revenue for kids health care, it also reduces the cost of healthcare since tobacco related health issues is one of the largest slices of healthcare costs.

    While we need to find a way to have a more broad and permanent funding source, this is a good bridge towards that goal. The "regressive tax" argument about smoking is a fraudulent one in that those same smokers are also directly and indirectly the biggest drain on the health system.

    Show me a viable universal healthcare package/system with the fairest and widest possible funding source which can be passed politically, and I will glad support it over this incremental initiative.

    Until that time, we need to cover the kids without coverage NOW or they (and we) will simply pay more for it if we do not address it NOW.

  • (Show?)

    Eric J. if those people stop smoking or buy the smokes in Washington or buy them on-line because they are being taxed more, wouldn't the revenue go down from the tax if the smokers did this?

    1] The Healthy Kids Initiative raises taxes on Oregon "smokes" precisely to the level that it is in Washington State. So it's unlikely many people are going to make a trip because of that.

    2] Buying tobacco online doesn't let you avoid paying taxes on it. At least not legally.

    3] If we can keep kids from starting smoking that will save taxpayers more money in the long run.

    4] The idea that someone is going to smoke more so that they can pay more taxes to fund some minimal standard of their kid's health care is bizarre. If they had the money, why not just pay for the best care directly?

  • Eric J. (unverified)
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    Yes, Steve, it would be bizarre in your point No. 4 if it were not for one thing I sometimes factor in when it includes smokers - The Addiction factor...where sometimes a smoker is too addicted to smokes to care one way or the other about what they spend money on.

  • trishka (unverified)
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    the regressive nature of the cigarette tax troubles me as well. however, placing a tax on fattening unhealthy foods would, contrary to what one poster asserted above, be regressive as well.

    obesity and its accompanying health problems and costs is disproportionately something that affects people of lower socio-economic status. fattening food is, unfortunately, cheaper and more plentiful. this is as much a function of the farm subsidy situation in our country as anything. (corn corn corn corn corn and more corn = lots of empty calories).

    the above notwithstanding, i do recognize that these so called "sin" taxes are very likely the only politically viable options for funding children's healthcare at this point. which is a sad state of affairs, but there it is. so it's choosing the lesser of 2 evils, as so often is the case in politics.

  • (Show?)

    lestatdelc: The "regressive tax" argument about smoking is a fraudulent one in that those same smokers are also directly and indirectly the biggest drain on the health system.

    Um... you might want to look up what "regressive" actually means.

    Triska, I fully agree that obesity disproportionately affects those of lower socioeconomic status. But that's a bit of a side issue. In terms of funding sources the taxation of fastfoods would both spread the costs much wider and more equitably in socio-economic terms, both of which would be inherently more progressive than the current proposal. That's really my sole point here. I don't dispute tobacco's contribution to health care costs.

  • trishka (unverified)
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    kevin, i don't think you're right about that. my understanding is that fast food is purchased in disproportionately greater quantities by people of lower incomes. therefore, taxing it would place a greater burden on them.

    but that's neither here nor there, as fastfood franchises have yet attained the "sinful" nature in the eyes of taxpayers that cigarettes have, and therefore are not yet fair game politically for taxing. possibly because many people may eat at them occasionally, while the addictive nature of nicotine means that one is either a smoker or not.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    Why not tax a group that is more upwardly mobile and can more easily handle the increased taxes?

    Mayble a 1% tax on all purchases of organic foods. Without a doubt, the demographic profile of the organic grocery buyer is much farther up the economic ladder than the cig buyer.

    Maybe a 1% tax on all bottles of wine that retail above $10.00/bottle.

    Maybe a userfee everytime a person posts on a blog. Aren't you willing to pay a dime to help the kids everytime you post.

    If we consider ourselves progressive, shouldn't those that can most afford to pay, pay?

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)
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    I do not see the use of cigerettes declining whatsoever. Rather, from personal experience, I see it increasing! Yes, you don't see smokers in many places because of smoking bans, but from my view point more people are smoking now in Portland than ever before.

    Will a rise in taxes discourage people from smoking? I doubt it, which makes it all the more worthy as a tax source.

  • js (unverified)
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    I for one and very excited about casting my vote in November in favor of the Healthy Kids plan. I'm proud of the D's who worked hard to push this in the Legislative Session, and will do my part to take it up from here.

    Once Healthy Kids is delivering health care to kids, no one in their right mind will say, "gee, maybe we should take health care away from kids and make it cheaper to smoke."

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)
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    -Dan,

    Taxing the ability to speak would not go over well. It would also be unconstitutional.

    Taxing alcohol would be viable as well as other luxury goods.

  • Eric J. (unverified)
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    But JS - Someone could say " Its become too expensive to smoke, I am gonna quit"...and that part of the revenue will go away...if they are not too addicted to try to stop. That is why I have a question with all of this. There may be an unintended consequence to this issue - people may get the motivation to quit. Not because of the kids or in spite of the kids, but for their own health and for their own wallet.

  • trishka (unverified)
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    or, we could just restructure our income tax brackets so that wealthy people didn't pay less taxes than middle-class people. that would help, too.

  • js (unverified)
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    There may be an unintended consequence to this issue - people may get the motivation to quit.

    Right, and that's a good thing. Quitting smoking is a good thing for people's health, of course, but also for the state budget. I heard a statistic once like for every pack of smokes sold, the state pays something like $11 in smoking-related health care costs. If people are priced out of the smoking market, perhaps that would free up some money in the state budget to, I don't know, insure kids.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    Liberalincarnate,

    I can appreciate the concern in your post,

    "Taxing the ability to speak would not go over well. It would also be unconstitutional"

    Except that we already do that. Ever looked at the tax you pay on your phone bill? That is a tax that allows you to use the system.

    If you want to join a private club or association, most will charge dues of some type. It does in fact cost money to express your views in certain forums. A blog is just another forum, as is your telephone or a preferred social club.

  • (Show?)

    Dan, go away. Your trolling is overwhelmingly dumb, even for a Republican.

    While taxes can be imposed for access to a system (and are generally earmarked to help pay for the governmental costs of the system), taxing based on content is flat out unconstitutional.

    And even if it weren't, yours is an intentionally stupid idea. Basic Econ 101 (which most Republicans fail at) says that if you tax something you get less of it. If you subsidize something, you get more. So we should be taxing things that are bad for people and society, and not taxing things that are good.

    That's not how it always works, of course. People love their drugs, and boy it'd be a lot harder to be a wino if Thunderbird was $7 a bottle instead of $2.50. But the idea of taxing people for making healthy choices about their bodies (and thus relieving pressure on our overburdened health care system) is about as stupid an idea as you can get.

  • JTT (unverified)
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    The Healthy Kids Initiative would increase the cigarette tax by $0.845. The current state tax on cigarettes is $1.18, so the Healthy Kids plan would raise the state tax to $2.025, the same level as Washington. The CDC estimates the social cost at $7.18/pack ($3.45 for medical/$3.73 for lost economic productivity). The federal tax on cigarettes, by the way, is $0.39 per pack. So if the voters pass Measure 50 in November, total cigarette taxes in Oregon would be $2.415 and Oregonians would only be subsidizing the effects of smoking at $4.765 per pack.

    I see Healthy Kids as a cost recovery initiative, not a regressive tax.

  • FF (unverified)
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    1) Kids deserve health care

    2) A tobacco tax in order to do so does not deserve to be in our state constitution.

  • Cathy (unverified)
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    The social costs of cigarettes are staggering: In 2002, 7,000 lives and over $1 billion in direct medical costs. We lose money and lives with every pack of cigarettes that are sold. Measure 50 allows us recoup some of the medical costs and spend the revenue on something nearly everyone supports: health care for children.

    Some here criticize the tobacco tax as placing an undue burden on low-income Oregonians. It's true that Oregonians below the poverty line have a 10% higher rate of smoking than those above the poverty line. But here's what is also true: tobacco companies disproportionately target advertisements at low-income people; these higher rates of smoking greatly contribute to the gross health disparities that exist by income; and studies have shown that higher cigarette taxes are one of the best ways to reduce smoking in low-income populations.

    A higher tobacco tax will prevent smoking among children. When cigarettes cost more, far fewer adolescents move beyond the experimental stage to regular, addicted smoking.

    Our current way of doing business is fiscally and morally irresponsible. We recover only a mere fraction of the cost of cigarettes in taxes. We don’t provide a way for every child to be insured, so every time an uninsured child gets sick and goes to the emergency room it costs us.

    Cigarette taxes are a stable and adequate funding source, particularly when compared to the income tax, even in an economic downturn.

    The health of Oregon’s children cannot wait. YES on Measure 50 is the right choice.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    trishka writes:

    "or, we could just restructure our income tax brackets so that wealthy people didn't pay less taxes than middle-class people. that would help, too."

    Show me the beef. Where does this happen? Give me a concrete example of where wealthy people (definition please?) pay less taxes than middle-class (definition please?) people.

    I'm sure I would be considered wealthy by your criterion. My wife and I paid 6 figure federal income taxes in 2006 (on 6 figure combined income), while we paid mid 5 figure Oregon income tax. Exactly where do we "wealthy" get a break and pay less than you do. Show me either in percentage terms or in absolute terms? I'm willing to bet you can't do it, because it is fiction. Now it may be the case that Bill Gates can finagle his taxes to pay less than I do and that's a problem. The issue isn't the wealthy paying less than the middle-class; it is a question of the superwealthy (political donor class) paying less than the wealthy. I dare you to provide a single example where ordinary wealthy people - people whose income is nearly 100% derived from W-2 and/or 1099R income pay less tax than another less affluent group. The code doesn't let it happen. If you have a counter example, please provide it. Otherwise, let's get off this offensive line of thinking.

  • (Show?)

    "Ordinary wealthy people", MrFearless47, is not what most people are referring to when they talk about the rich. The rich are the property owners, people for whom the bulk of their wealth is in business ownership.

    Take, for example Bill Gates, who has (depending on stock price) 37 to 44 Billion Dollars. He's paid taxes on nearly none of it. He will never pay taxes on it unless he sells. His children will pay some small percentage as inheritance tax, unless he happens to die in 2009, the last year of the GOP tax giveaway, in which case they'll pay absolutely nothing. All that money will not be taxed one small dime.

    Compare that to the standard income that middle class people earn. Not only do they pay tax on everything they earn each year, the interest on whatever they manage to save is taxed as well too.

    And Bill Gates (and his father) are, in terms of tax policy, some of the good guys. They're not pulling any shenanigans with off-shore front companies, or pretending that he was taking capital risk when he wasn't.

    Certainly, if there weren't massive tax loopholes in our system for the wealthy owners, the rich would probably pay more than enough of their fair share at our current tax rates. But the fact is that there are massive loopholes. In fact, I would say that Democrats aren't really asking for much of a tax increase at all. We're just asking to plug all the plutocratic giveaways the Republicans shove in the tax code every chance they get.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    Steven Maurer:

    "Ordinary wealthy people", MrFearless47, is not what most people are referring to when they talk about the rich. The rich are the property owners, people for whom the bulk of their wealth is in business ownership."

    I wish this were true. You might investigate what many, if not all, the current Democrats are saying about the Bush tax cuts (which, incidently, didn't do anything for me). The magic number is $200,000 per year. It's those guys who need the repeal of all those plummy benefits they got from GWB. Memo to Democrats: I don't know anyone in that income bracket all the way up to about $600,000 per year who counts any benefit from the Bush Tax cuts. Every penny Bush cut simply exposed more and more of our income to the AMT so that we pay MORE in taxes under the Bush tax cuts than we did before. But now we're stuck. The AMT is killing us and no matter what you do we're still gonna be paying a disproportionate share of taxes.

    I agree fully with the loophole closing, even raising capital gains and dividend rates, but the Dems HAVE to take a stand on eliminating the AMT, even if it means raising marginal rates on upper income brackets. Don't index my deductions to some phantom number and only let me deduct the amount exceeding these phantoms numbers. Raise the marginal rates back to Clinton rates, get rid of the AMT, and don't limit ordinary tax deductions.

    As someone said in another thread. "Time for the DEMS to grow some balls". Decide once and for all who "the wealthy" are, stick to that definition and stop alienating all of the "ordinary wealthy" who find their values more with Dems than R's but feel alienated by both. The old saw is "too rich to be a Dem, too poor to be a Rep". We represent a huge support base for the Dems, but I know way too many of us turned off by the Dems lack of courage and inconsistency to form a lasting bond.

    P.S. to Kari and apropos of nothing. Why doesn't your darn website remember my personal information. I allow cookies and they work for every other site but this one. It is tiring to have to fill in my personal info every single time I post something here. I do use multiple Macs, but it doesn't work on my Windows VMs either.

  • (Show?)

    It is tiring to have to fill in my personal info every single time I post something here.

    mrfearless, here's what you do: leave those fields blank, type your comment, and then click the Preview link. On the three different Macs I generally use, either Safari, Firefox, or BlueO will then fill in the fields for me, and once I have proofed my comment I just click Post.

  • (Show?)

    To all the people advocating a fast-food tax...

    Let's say that we all agree with you. How exactly would you construct the tax?

    Would you tax food based on its fat content? Sugar content? Speed of preparation? Greasiness? Lack of waiters?

    Would grocery stores be exempt? Would Krispy Kreme donuts at Krispy Kreme be taxed, but at Safeway be tax-free? Would a "six dollar burger at Carl's Jr be taxed while a real six-dollar burger at a sitdown/menu restaurant go untaxed?

    How would you collect the tax? Would we need to create a whole new tax-collection regime to collect money from restaurants?

    Say what you want about the cigarette tax, but all we're doing is changing the value of the tax - not taxing new products, or building a new tax collection and enforcement system...

  • (Show?)

    P.S. to Kari and apropos of nothing. Why doesn't your darn website remember my personal information. I allow cookies and they work for every other site but this one. It is tiring to have to fill in my personal info every single time I post something here. I do use multiple Macs, but it doesn't work on my Windows VMs either.

    Before typing in your info, check the "remember" box. It should automagically appear.

  • (Show?)

    Kari, I think that's the point: the automagic don't work like it should oughtta. Not for me on Macs (Safari, Firefox), anyway...I don't post from my PC much, so I'm not sure about that.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    For what it's worth. USA Today has a piece today showing the impact on cigarette consumption following the imposition of steep new taxes:

    • Cigarette sales fell 18% in North Carolina last year after the tax was raised in two steps to 35 cents from a nickel. The tobacco-growing state resisted higher cigarette taxes until 2005.

    • Connecticut has increased its tax to $1.51 from 50 cents per pack in 2002. Since then, per capita consumption of cigarettes has fallen 37%.

    • New Jersey raised its tax to $2.40 from 80 cents in 2002. Smoking has dropped 35%.

    • California raised its cigarette tax to 87 cents per pack in 1999 but hasn't changed it since. Smoking is down 18% since the tax increase.

    This would suggest that (a) as expected, there are diminishing returns from tobacco taxes; (b) also as expected, states should expect a public health benefit from the decrease in cigarette consumption over time.

  • trishka (unverified)
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    mrfearless, calm down, you were reading a lot into my statement concerning "middle-class" vs. "wealthy". steve maurer did a better job than i could have in elucidating the disparities.

    it's about semantics - perhaps i should have said "super wealthy" instead of "wealthy". but by all accounts, it sounds to me like your family falls into what i would categorize as "upper middle-class", rather than "wealthy". so it wasn't about you.

    btw, i'm married to a doctor as well, and we pay 50% of our income to taxes. so believe me, my post wasn't about you.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    Steve,

    Having you lecture me on economics is rich.

    Higher taxes on items that are in demand does not drive away demand. It only creates a black market.

    I'm not at all in favor of slapping taxes on blog posting. I'd hoped that even you would be able to see through my sarcasm. Apparently not.

  • (Show?)

    Dan,

    It's always hard to "see through" the sarcasm of hypocrites: you can never tell when they're being serious.

    You guys, after all, are the people who are in favor of massive increases in Federal spending, military (foreign) nation building, overwhelming pork barrel earmarks, the government spying on its own citizens, and torture. You've got Congressmen chasing around underage pages, and the Chair of your National Young Republicans giving unwanted head to another Young Republican, who was in a very serious Republican manner, passed out drunk. And I'm not even mentioning the every day, ho hum, revelations of massive corruption among the GOP elite. This week it's (spin the bottle) Alaska!

    And yet, I'm sure you'll tell me you're the Party of Small Government and Moral Values.

    See how hard it is to tell if you're being sarcastic? Or not?

    Oh, and by the way, as much as you are in favor of lawbreaking, taxes almost never create black markets. That only happens when you have outright bans on economic activities, like drugs and prostitution. (Two markets which Republicans heavily participate in.)

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    triska writes:

    "mrfearless, calm down, you were reading a lot into my statement concerning "middle-class" vs. "wealthy". steve maurer did a better job than i could have in elucidating the disparities."

    I'm sorry if I overreacted to your post. I haven't seen too many posts from you so I don't know what your history is with BO. My history is such that I've been reading and posting for a long time. There is a large group of commenters who have advocating increasing taxes on the rich for some time, and the figure always bandied about is those earning "above $200,000". I've been fighting this for a long time, not getting too much traction. So forgive me if I recoil when someone on this site starts talking about raising taxes on the "wealthy" since by any criteria, your family and mine are in the upper 2%^ of wage earners, but are nowhere near rich or wealthy by any objective criteria espoused here. Forgive the generalization, but my impression is that many posters here believe that anyone who makes more than they do is "rich" or "wealthy". So, I apologize for my crankiness, but it is a really sore point with me.

  • (Show?)

    Kari,

    FYI... I've always had the same issue that Pete mentions. I've never had Blue Oregon's script remember any of my info, and I've tried it on I think it's been four different computers, all with different access & settings. Other scripts like Blogger or especially HaloScan always remember my info, regardless of which computer I enter it with. But BO never has.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    FWIW:

    After Kari's initial response to my aside, I began to investigate and discovered the counterintuitive way that whatever blogging system he's using works for me. When I want to comment, I JUST discovered that "Remember personal info?" box can be clicked BEFORE entering any personal information and voila, my personal information appeared. So this question seems to function in two completely different ways: 1) it is a query initially to set a cookie after personal information is entered and 2) it functions as a trigger to pull that cookie information from my browser AFTER it has already been saved. For some reason, it doesn't work properly once you've started to enter the personal information, before clicking on that checkbox.

    Give it a try. It has worked for me on all my Mac's and in Firefox 2.0.x and Safari 3.0xb. Maybe this will clear the mystery.

  • Eric J. (unverified)
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    So, Jon, if I read your post correctly, if there are diminishing returns from tobacco taxes, would not the money for kids (if those taxes aquired from the smokes go to them) diminish as well?

    Short term, M50 looks great. Yet long term, based on the logic above, the money will diminish for the kids while the health of the parents gets better.

    This issue really isn't about rich vs. poor vs. the overweight - it is about whether or not taxing a marketable commodity (that every social class and wieght uses) would be worth the diminishing returns in the long run if approved by voters.

    My question is this: Do we say yes now and wait for the returns to diminish and panic later, or say no now and create a better taxing alternative for a fund of this nature or tax another maketable commodity that does not have such expected long turn diminishing results?

    Very compelling.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    My take: support M50 here now, and S-CHIP nationally.

    The health care crisis is too serious and immediate to wait to build consensus around ideal, long-term funding mechanisms.

    As for the drop-off in cigarette consumption as taxes are boosted, that is no doubt built in to the revenue model.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    I will support M50 unreservedly. As for the diminishing returns, I wouldn't sweat it. It is almost surely built into the economic model as most do. It isn't any different than when a University decides how far it can raise tuition. They factor in the expected losses from crossing some unknown threshhold of affordability for some students. It is pretty common.

    As for a better recurring source of money that cuts across broad socio-economic classes, I would suggest increased beer, wine, and hard liquor tax. Starbucks has demonstrated that you can raise prices with little or no loss of business. Alcohol is a commodity that most people expect to be somewhat more expensive than water. I doubt you'd drive many drinkers away if you raised taxes about the equivalent of $.25 to $.50 per glass or individual drink.

  • trishka (unverified)
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    Alcohol is a commodity that most people expect to be somewhat more expensive than water.

    only in america. in parts of europe, restaurants include wine with your meal, but charge for water. gotta love it.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    triska writes:

    "only in america. in parts of europe, restaurants include wine with your meal, but charge for water. gotta love it."

    I must be visiting the wrong restaurants in Europe. I keep getting charged for potable water and for wine. <g>

  • (Show?)

    Interesting point made today over at Think Progress about the false assertion made up-thread that taxes on cigarettes doesn't reduce smoking:

    A USA Today report “finds that higher state taxes on smokers have produced sharp declines in consumption. The amount of decline in smoking is directly tied to the size of the tax increase.” Some examples:

    – Cigarette sales fell 18% in North Carolina last year after the tax was raised in two steps to 35 cents from a nickel.

    – Connecticut has increased its tax to $1.51 from 50 cents per pack in 2002. Since then, per capita consumption of cigarettes has fallen 37%.

    – New Jersey raised its tax to $2.40 from 80 cents in 2002. Smoking has dropped 35%.

    By contrast, South Carolina has kept its lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax at 7 cents, and cigarette consumption there has fallen only 5 percent since 2000. Congress is currently considering raising the federal cigarette tax as a way to pay for expanded government health care for children.

  • (Show?)

    Doh... Posted by: Jon | Aug 10, 2007 8:52:17 AM posted the same thing I did.

  • (Show?)

    Any of the "let's tax fatty food!" people planning on answering my questions? Or did they scare you all off that point?

  • Eric J. (unverified)
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    There already is a fatty food tax, Kari, in Canada (or something close to it) - It's called a Goods and Services Tax (known as GST by the locals). In the State of Washington, it's known as the sales tax - the one that gets tacked onto your meals and burgers when you order them up in a fast food restraunt. Glad we don't have that one in Oregon.

    Just my two cets on that...now back to your regular postings about M50...

  • (Show?)

    Kari,

    The questions were off point in that they didn't address the regressivity issue, which was my sole point of contention.

    BTW the log-in trick of clicking the "remember personal info" box doesn't work for me and, without scrolling back up to double-check..., I think Pete said he'd tried it to and it hadn't worked.

    Obviously it hasn't stopped me from commenting here. But I figure you'd want to know 'cause you undoubtedly already know that navigability is crucial to building and maintaining traffic to any web site.

  • (Show?)
    So forgive me if I recoil when someone on this site starts talking about raising taxes on the "wealthy" since by any criteria, your family and mine are in the upper 2%^ of wage earners, but are nowhere near rich or wealthy by any objective criteria espoused here.

    earning more than 98% of American households doesn't make you anywhere near rich? Come again?

    4 out of 5 households in this state don't even make as much as $80K, much less 200K.

    I'm not sure what kind of sympathy you're seeking, but anybody pulling down more than 100K in Oregon well deserves the label "rich."

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    You'd think so, torridjoe. But 100K doesn't get you anywhere near as far in NYC or the Bay Area. Further, rich is a relative term. Compared to Africa, we're ALL rich. Hell, even homeless people in the U.S. have nearly universal access to safe drinking water, parasite abatement, and a minimum-wage job that will feed you.

    Maybe it's just me, but I think that attacking people for "wealth" is as as mindless and counterproductive as attacking "government spending". Both gloss over crucial distinctions that extremists don't want considered.

    I have no problem genuinely deserved economic success and no problem with government spending on bridges, or health care. What I do have a problem with is wealth derived from corruption, fraud, or predation on vulnerable citizenry, and government spending on no-bid contracts, and bombs to make useless holes in the desert.

    If we simply focused on making government spending good spending, and taxes good taxes (discouraging self-destructive behavior, compensating for the true cost of externalities, and removing loopholes for filthy-rich plutocrats), our nation would be in much better financial condition, even if the tax rate stayed exactly the same. If we didn't punish "the rich" at all.

  • trishka (unverified)
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    the point that (i believe) mrfearless is trying to make is not that it matters whether you call people who make over $200K/year "wealthy" or "upper-middle class".

    the issue is that within that 2% of the population there is a huge disparity in tax burden, in that people at the lower end pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than anyone else, while those at the upper end, the truly super-wealthy, pay practically nothing. so "tax the wealthy" more can mean a lot of things.

    it can mean raising the tax burden on people who already pay more than anyone else, percentage-wise, or it can mean raising the burden on the people who really have a lot of money, and pay practically nothing at all.

    that's the problem with how horrendously skewed the income and wealth distribution is in this country, it's hard to get an accurate picture of what's going on at the upper end.

    and yes, we're all wealthy compared to people in developing nations.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    torridjoe wrote:

    'anybody pulling down more than 100K in Oregon well deserves the label "rich."'

    Some nuance is worthwhile here. Certainly, people who make $100k/year should pay taxes to support government services, but it's important to sometimes draw a line between the segment of the population who are doing-well financially from the truly ultra-rich. Politically, we don't want professional class earners to feel allied with the top 1/10 of 1% income earners who make as much as the bottom 50% in total income.

    This political calculus is discussed in Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else by David Cay Johnson, who, by the way, was interviewed on PBS's NOW this evening.

    The top 1/10 of 1% can most easily afford to pay more in taxes. They also have been successful in using their influence to tailor tax codes to favor their class. We should work to make the rest of the top 2% realize that they are being screwed like the rest of us by this special treatment of the ultra-rich.

  • nutmeg (unverified)
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    The last time progressives had the chance to raise a tax on the rich they pushed through a national luxury tax on yachts. I think that they defined the tax as anything over $75k in cost. This was intended to raise millions annually in additional taxes.

    The net result was hundreds of independent boat and yacht makers employing thousands of workers shutting their doors. Net effect was a huge loss due to businesses closed and people going onto public assistance.

    Taxing tobacco to fund health care is like screwing for virginity.

    Whatever happened to the huge tobacco class action settlement? What rat hole did those dollars go down?

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    Please don't make things up, nutmeg. We check facts around here. It was 1983, the value at which the tax started to apply was $100,000, and while I personally think the tax was unfair, jobs were merely shifted, not lost, as people in that tax bracket simply changed what they were buying in term of high end entertainment. Ski Resorts had a banner year, for example.

    Your other analogy falls flat on its face, since the government isn't encouraging people to smoke more because of this tax, it encourages them to smoke less.

    The Oregon tobacco settlement was used to fund tobacco abatement programs, health related research, and a few chronically underfunded programs that Republicans like to cut: specifically shelter for victims of domestic violence.

  • nutmeg (unverified)
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    Steven, thanks for checking out the facts. I'm glad that you were able to correct my guess (I said, I think) at what level the lux tax kicked in. You are, however dead wrong in your statement that jobs were merely shifted.

    Boat builders and fiber glas chopper operators in Florida, Virgina, NC, SC and the Maryland shore just don't become ski lift operators, Cat drivers or ticket takers in Colorado. The jobs were L-O-S-T! The net loss in revenue was experienced.

    As to any rise in ski resort usage in 1983 was more likely due to a good snow pack domestically and the dollar's relative strength than a deliberate thought process on the part of those with enough disposable income to purchase a boat valued at over $100k in 1983.

    Thank you for proving my analogy Steven. You are clearly a product of Portland public schools. The government is encouraging less smoking and at the same time funding a costly program based on consumption of the very product they are discouraging use of. Ergo my analogy - you can't do one and expect the other.

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    How bizarre of you as a conservative, nutmeg, to care about economic transition costs. Typically when liberals try to talk about all the losers in trade deals like NAFTA (e.g. U.S. citizens with manufacturing jobs or Mexican farmworkers unable to compete with U.S. mechanized agri-businesses), you just tut-tut and say that overall the economy in terms of dollars has improved. But here you are, rightly pointing out that people don't just immediately transition to other jobs that are created. There are actual losers when you raise or lower taxes.

    But of course, lets not kid ourselves, you really don't care. You're just a typical hypocrite willing to take any economic position so long as it backs your current argument.

    Insofar as the future of the healthy kid's program is concerned, tobacco taxes went up in Washington, and it hasn't significantly impacted sales. And it's unlikely to in the short or medium term: even if every single kid immediately decided not to get hooked on nicotine as a result of this tax, there are still a large installed base of addicts that support it.

    Of course, in the very long term - 20 years our or more - I would hope to see enough of a decrease in tobacco use, that it might actually impact this tax. But by that time, I'd hope that the entire American love affair with plutocracy will have blown over, and we just expand Medicare (with its 2% overhead, compared to the current overhead of 27% for private industry), to cover everyone.

    In other words, people will pay more taxes, but less than what they're currently paying to insurance companies right now.

  • nutmeg (unverified)
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    Steven, how convenient of you to label me (incorrectly) simply because I choose to question the Kool-Aid drinkers. Quite to the contrary, established studies show that w/in 2- years consumption of tobacco has decreased by double digits in every state that has raised their taxes on the product. That is an unsustainable funding source.

    Now add in the high probability that the taxes will also be raised significantly at the federal level and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

    Steven, I'm not a conservative, or a republican, rather a realist. You can't establish a system spending tens of millions of dollars per year on a declining tax base.

  • yawnatyou (unverified)
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    Well, one thing for sure, from amusing cranks like mrfearless87, to dilettantes like Perr, and most of the pro SJR-4 advocates in between --- health care for children clearly is not your goal.

    Starting with you Perr, why don't you be factually correct? SB3, passed by the legislature, is actually what is now the "Healthy Kids" bill (more on that below). SJR-4 is not "Healthy Kids" at all. SJR-4 an almost unprecedented example of trashing our state constitution by inserting statutory matter that should always be the subject of legislative debate, forced on us the electorate in a way that demostrates much of what most of you whine on and on childishly about as repelling you about how "the other side" plays politics:

    After a demonstration of dubious political skill over several weeks by Merkley in his handling of the tobacco tax bill HB2967 and the real "Healthy Kids" bill HB3558 in the House (neither actually came to a vote), a number of Senators and Representatives connived to introduce a very different, very cynical "Healthy Kids" bill SB3 in the Senate on 5/31/2007. SB3 includes a "poison pill" in which an unprincipled faction of the legislature decided it was a really good idea to climb down into the mud with anti-tobacco whack jobs and zealots by withholding health care for kids --- unless we the people agreed to set a very bad precedent by demeaning our Constitution with this kind of statutory material. (Part of the deceit and incompetence was that they didn't want to stand up for us all and squash a patently invalid and untested claim that referring a statutory tax to the people required a super-majority vote.)

    On the same day, SJR-4, which actually was introduced on 1/12/2007 by Bradbury as a Constitutional amendment to outlaw the practice of paying contractors by the signature to register people to vote or sign candidates petitions, was gutted and completely re-written by the Senate Finance and Revenue committee, to emerge on 6/6/2007 as the "poison pill" tobacco tax constitutional amendment referenced by SB3.

    With that tawdry history on the table of how we the people who actually care about fixing the health care system for everyone including children got to the point that we are being blackmailed by an incompetent faction of the legislature and the obnoxious nutjobs in the anti-tobacco lobby, let's see who agrees with a couple of facts and how they square those facts with the tawdry and hypocritical approach of SJR4:

    First and unquestionably, a negative correlation exists between the total cost of tobacco products and smoking rates. The only relevant question is the magnitude of the correlation, and therefore whether the costs SJR-4 would add actually will make the current crisis situation in which we have failed to responsibly focus on providing health care for children, and everyone, better or worse.

    Second, SJR4 is the state analog of the SCHIP program at the Federal level, introduced by the same slimy alliance of venal incompetent politicians and arrogant anti-tobacco zealots who irrefutably demonstrate they care far less about health care than they do about their own jobs and agendas.

    Third, the entire ponzi scheme of supporting state health care programs for children depends on a sustained level of federal funding (including SCHIP sources) plus additional state tax revenues from cynical, petulant, ham-handed approaches like SJR4.

    No one, including Perr here, has presented any quantitative arguments that combine these dynamic competing factors to show how much additional revenue actually will be generated --- or lost --- and therefore how much more --- or less --- health care for children actually will be funded. In the face of that utter lack of information and analyses, some Oregonians, appear to be dumb enough (or deceitful enough on behalf of their own careers and agendas) to argue we should lock ourselves in to this approach by putting it into our Constitution. rather than leaving the matter in the legislative arena where it belongs both on principle, and out of good sense to allow us the ability to adapt as need be.

    All of this leaves aside the question about the unquestionably regressive nature of tobacco taxes, what kind of people SJR4 advocates are that you would cynically argue that the burden of providing health care for low-income children should be shifted down the income scale, how this polarizes and makes partisan the whole health care reform debate, the leadership incompetence in resorting to narrow and unstable dedicated taxes for major social obligations, etc., etc. But most of you have demonstrated that in this debate you don't really care about fixing our health care system anyway.

    You'd rather continue to outright lie that people are voting to pass "Healthy Kids" when nothing could be further from the truth because you, and the leaders you admire like Merkley, so far have demonstrated you aren't capable of doing anything else.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    So nutmeg and yawnatyou are arguing that a decrease in tobacco use is a bad thing?
    To the contrary, I believe that is one of reasons for tobacco tax. Smoking is bad for the smoker and bad for society. Taxing consumption we want to discourage is a well-established strategy. Putting what money is collected to good use - healthcare, in this case, is reasonable. It people stop smoking and revenue decreases, then the legislature will need look elsewhere to augment revenue.

    I don't have a strong opinion on taxing yachts. Certainly, a tax could have damaged that industry. I'd prefer a hefty increase in upper bracket income tax rates. Or how about a one-time tax on wealth over $10 million? Republicans could call it the "Life Tax."

  • yawnatyou (unverified)
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    "So nutmeg and yawnatyou are arguing that a decrease in tobacco use is a bad thing? "

    Never said anything close to that. My issue is health care reform and making it clear what and who really are the obstacles to that. My previous comments are clear on that point.

    Now if you are admitting here that your support for SJR4 really doesn't have anything to do with fixing our health care system, than I give you credit for at least far more honest than Merkley and the rest of the mendacious, incompetent pols and obnoxious whackjobs in the anti-tobacco lobby. And if you also are arguing that putting statutory matters like a tobacco tax --- not Healthy Kids since SJR4 is not "Healthy Kids" --- in the constitution is a good idea, particularly without any numbers measuring the impact in context on our broken health care system, I think we have more evidence for an accurate picture of how little positive those widely held, if not widely admitted, views bring to the effort for health care reform.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    The "Health Kids Plan" is a stopgap measure to take of those least responsible for our failure to enact an effective health care system. I hope it lasts long enough to protect kids while we design and put in place a health care system that secures perfect health for everyone.

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    Least responsible? Do you have any idea how many people die every year of diseases caused by second-hand smoke?

    Let me give you a clue: if terrorists killed half the number of innocent Americans that smokers kill every year, the whole country would be seriously talking about using thermonuclear weapons.

    No, sorry. I have no respect for nicotine addicts who pretend they're just innocent little victims. At least heroin addicts only poison their own bloodstreams, not everyone elses.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Least responsible? Do you have any idea how many people die every year of diseases caused by second-hand smoke?

    I was guided by the title of the plan, Heathy Kids. Still there might be a healthy number of these with a decade or so under their belts who are truly heavy-duty smokers, thus contribute to the state of their health in ways others don't. However it does remain a stopgap measure, put in place until the rest of us, despite our track record of incompetence, put in place a health care system designed to secure perfect health for everybody.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    Steve Mauer writes:

    "At least heroin addicts only poison their own bloodstreams, not everyone elses."

    Except if they are pregnant mothers-to-be.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Except if they are pregnant mothers-to-be.

    Which helps to illustrate the tragedy of our situation. Such a person not only acts against their own self interest, but against the interests of another in their care - the kind of care generally assumed to be the best care of all. Who can care more than a mother for her child?

    In America there's not enough caring in our health care system. Let's care enough to work toward perfect health for everyone.

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