Hawley To Governor: Get A Clue

A Legislative Column from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia)

Not only does Governor Spitzer’s budget proposal tack on nearly $500 in new taxes and fees for New York’s families, but his plan significantly increases our state debt to an amount that is equivalent to giving an average New York family an $11,000 bill. The governor is out of touch with the reality facing New Yorkers. Case in point, his executive plan to get our state out of debt – through putting a tax on the sale of illegal drugs.

That’s correct. Governor Spitzer has proposed raising enough money through taxing illegal drugs to pay off our state’s nearly $5 billion deficit. Specifically, he plans on taxing marijuana at $3.50 per gram and all other drugs at $200 a gram. The governor believes he can bring in at least $17 million a year by taxing illegal street drugs.

If the governor’s out of touch plan sounds familiar, it may be because over the last twenty years, nearly thirty other states have tried similar plans. Each one of these plans has failed because of the difficulty in enforcing drug laws, legal problems enforcing the law due to defendant double jeopardy, and even the constitutionality of these plans have been called into question.

In the last five years, some suburban and rural areas across our state have seen a rise in crimes that, traditionally, have been confined within urban cities. Illegal drugs, gang activity and the presence of sexual predators are a growing problem facing our neighborhoods. But putting a tax on the sale of these illegal drugs is not going to solve the problem – moreover, the governor’s proposed law is something that cannot be enforced. This is not an effective way to teach our children the rights and wrongs of society.

Additionally, the New York Times recently cited a variety of cases highlighting the problems in enforcing illegal drug taxing plans like the one Governor Spitzer has proposed. In North Carolina, federal courts ruled against the state for the same crime and deemed the state’s actions unconstitutional. In Tennessee, a man won his case in court when he argued that he should not be taxed on the weight of his marijuana-laced baked goods. The court ruled that the state must refund him the tax paid on the other ingredients he used in these cookies.

Ironically, Oklahoma can boast the only incidence of an individual paying an illegal drug tax. When he was eventually arrested for dealing drugs, the state had to refund him his money because he had already paid the tax. Is this what Governor Spitzer wants to do: First he wants to give our driver’s licenses to illegal aliens – and now he wants to give money back to drug dealers? New York would become a haven for criminals, drug dealers, and other assorted lawbreakers.

What is next? Are we going to legitimize drug dealers’ business transactions, allow them to write off pagers, cars, and weapons as business expenses? All so we can later arrest them as white-collar tax evading criminals? This plan is out of touch and unenforceable. Moreover, how can the governor believe that taxing illegal drugs is going to solve our state’s out-of-control spending problems and relieve our growing debt?