Friday, February 02, 2018

Are Frankfort Republicans swallowing spiders?

Frankfort Republicans appear to be toying with the kind of bad economics we used to make fun of Democrats for touting.

They have started launching trial balloons from Pikeville to Paducah seeking support for another big cigarette tax increase, rationalizing it as an answer to both Kentucky's revenue woes and excessive public costs associated with smoking tobacco. How could it help both, really? Ask some Frankfort Republicans that question and watch how quickly they forget to call you back. Maybe we should just wait for Indiana and Tennessee to pass current legislation to raise their minimum smoking age and then authorize a tax increase in Kentucky stores for any underage kids from out-of-state who come here to buy cigarettes and take them home.

That's not as dumb as taxing Kentuckians more if they smoke to discourage them from smoking and planning in our next two year budget for not many people to actually become discouraged so we can keep spending money we don't have.

A better idea would be to emulate another Indiana proposal to create a fee for Medicaid recipients who smoke. Heck, maybe we could just kick smokers off Medicaid.

The point is that increasing taxes to incentivize smoking cessation and then counting unhatched government chickens in order to spend them two years hence in expectation that the first policy will fail is like the story of the little old lady who swallowed a fly. You know, she accidentally swallowed a fly and then swallowed a spider to catch the fly. Then she needed to swallow a bird to catch the spider, and so on until she swallowed a horse and died. If Kentucky really doesn't want to pay medical expenses for poor smokers, does it make any sense at all to address that problem by raising taxes and spending anticipated proceeds on other budgeted desires we already can't afford?

Same goes for Senate Bill 5, which would socialize private pharmacy benefit management services to Medicaid at substantial cost to taxpayers and pharmaceutical consumers both inside Medicaid and out. No one on the purchasing side is happy about rapidly increasing drug costs, but sweeping aside private cost managers in favor of government bureaucrats to address a healthcare problem sounds an awful lot like something the president before Donald Trump and the governor before Matt Bevin did to us.