Sept. 20, 2014 6:18 p.m.
OLYMPIA – Washington’s projected take on legal marijuana is a shade over $200 million, state economists guesstimated last week.
That’s not nothing, as non-economists who don’t mind a double negative will agree. But it clearly won’t be enough to stave off the upcoming legislative fighst between those who want to find more revenue – read raise taxes – and those who would make government more efficient – read cut programs – to balance the budget.
While it would be hard to argue that a $33 billion budget doesn’t have some things that could be cut, there are few things that have so little support that they can be drastically reduced or completely axed without a vocal constituency putting up a fight. Similarly, while the belief that some taxes could be raised enjoys support in some quarters, agreement on which ones should be raised often proves elusive. The working theory seems to be get the most taxes out of the fewest people to avoid a nasty referendum defeat.
This is where marijuana taxes offer a lesson in fiscal policy the Legislature should heed. The combination of sales, excise and business taxes and registration fees are high – maybe one should say exorbitant to avoid giggles – yet they seemed to generate no serious challenges from the usual anti-tax crowd. That may be because most of that crowd doesn’t indulge in marijuana, and thus doesn’t care that people who do will pay them. The people who are paying them really want marijuana, but don’t want to break the law to get it, and thus are willing to fork over some extra cash for the privilege.
Using that as a guidepost, the Legislature could find revenue from a new area with limited constituencies who would generate little sympathy from the general public – politicians and their campaign supporters. Continue inside the blog for some options…
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