Saturday, June 18, 2005

North Carolina legislators have found something new to tax: movies

Let's be blunt: the lawmakers of this state are, for the most part, idiots.

North Carolina is one of the most heavily-taxed states in the country, or at least east of the Mississippi River. Sooner or later anything and everything here has a tax, or a levy, or a fee, or some obscure penalty attached to it. Our fuel tax makes the average price of gas higher than that of any state around us. Too many cities and counties are raising property tax rates which I've never believed in anyway: if you have to pay money for land that you own then you don't really "own" that land at all, you're paying the government a "user's fee". There's talk of raising the tax on cigarettes... which I don't smoke and don't encourage anyone to, but in this state a higher tobacco tax is tantamount to fiscal suicide. Sales taxes keep going up. More taxes are levied on things like dining and hotels. Meantime this state's governments are out of control when it comes to spending. I haven't had time to lately but first opportunity I'm going to look through the current budget proposal and report on any ridiculous appropriations... and there will be some, believe you me. The school systems here are a wreck because more money goes to administration than goes to actual teaching (one more reason why North Carolina needs a state lottery to shore up education, like what Georgia does with its game). This state's legislators aren't interested in cutting spending. They only spend more, and they never run out of things to tax to generate revenue from which to keep spending wastefully.

And now they want to hit both average North Carolina families and what could still be a major industry for this state: movies.

A little while ago I went to the theater to pick up some tickets for Batman Begins, 'cuz I'm going with three other friends this afternoon. The lady at the box office gave me a couple of fliers about Bill 622 in the North Carolina Senate, that would impose a 7% tax on movie tickets sold in this state. That's about $.40 per ticket. That may seem like chump change to some but for a family of four that's $1.60 extra they'd have to pay for an evening's entertainment. Over the course of a year that adds up. Lisa and I go to movies, on average, about once a month: figure that would be $9.60 going to North Carolina when we could be using it to buy already overly-priced popcorn (which is actually something I like). When you throw in seeing a movie four times already in the theater as I've done with Revenge of the Sith... well, you get the idea. And besides, it's just the principle of the thing: why the hell should I happily give over more of my money, even a little bit of it, when it's so well known for a fact that the state is just going to waste it too? When you have a drug addict you don't make him better by giving him more heroin, you take it away and put the guy through detox.

Imposing a higher movie tax (why should there be a movie tax at all anyway?) is just another line of coke for the druggie. It's not helping us and it's not doing the state any favors either.

Anyway, a group of North Carolina theater owners is banding together to fight this thing, and they've set up a good website that lays it all out better than I could that you might wanna check out, if you happen to live in this state. It makes the case for why this proposed tax is going to be seriously detrimental to not only the economy of North Carolina, but to families and communities as well.

When I said that most North Carolina legislators are idiots, I mean that. Some of them are pretty cool. But after meeting and talking to many of them in various capacities such as journalist, I've gotten the impression that too many of them are pretty sleazy when it comes to being entrusted with public funds. There's some phone numbers and addresses for several legislators on this anti-tax website: it wouldn't hurt to make some polite letters and phone calls to 'em and let them know that we're watching how far their hands go down into the cookie jar. We shouldn't have 'em putting it in our bags of movie theater popcorn either.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"(one more reason why North Carolina needs a state lottery to shore up education, like what Georgia does with its game)."

This would be a mistake. My state has a lottery. The profits of which was supposed to be spent on education. But guess what they, the politicians, did with the lottery profits? It did go to education. Every cent of it. BUT whatever amount they raised with the lottery, they cut out the same amount OUT of the education budget, put the lottery profits in its place, and spent the education money on something else.

To illustrate: I cant recall the exact figure amount raised from the lottery, but for the sake of argument, lets say they raised 20 million in lottery profits.

They then cut 20 million dollars from education budget. Put the 20 million of lottery profits into the education budget to make up for the 20 million they just cut out of it. They then went on a wild spending spree (pork barrel, special interest groups, etc) with that extra 20 million and the education budget stayed the same amount as it was before the lottery.

And then as the kids needed new books, new materials, as the teachers unions clamored for more money and benefits, as the school buildings needed repairs, maintenance, and updating, naturally the additional money just isnt there for such things. Because as I've pointed out before, even with the lottery, the education budget stayed the same as before the lottery.

The same budgetary slight of hand could be performed by the politicians in your state.

Christopher said...

Your state sounds a lot like New York or New Jersey (am I right?? :-) and you're 100% correct in what you've stated. Those states and others made the mistake of taking their lotteries and, instead of it being supplemental revenue for education, it became a *crutch* for educational spending instead... and then migrated into spending on different things altogether.

I cited Georgia as my main example because for the most part that is a state where the lottery *has* made a tremendous difference in education, because it's used as it was intended. My wife is from Georgia and went to college on a Hope scholarship (make B average or better in high school and the state pays your way through school). It's enabled a lot of kids who otherwise couldn't afford a higher education to have one. The money goes for other things too, like new schools construction etc.

Man, this is a tough one to argue with you 'cuz you're right. I also know that a lottery *can* work if the right people are in charge of it. Unfortunately for North Carolina that would be our state legislators and they've a cruddy record of fiscal responsibility. We *don't* deserve a lottery in that regard... except I'm close enough to the Virginia border to literally see a LOT of our money going north because of its lottery. Same with our borders with Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.

North Carolina is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place - between economic competition and outright stupidity - so far as a lottery here goes.