"We tax cigarettes at over a penny apiece," explains Democratic Senator David Bartlett. "We tax beer at a penny a can." He says this is just a way of ensuring that those who choose to roll their own also pay their fair share.
But the fact is that the tax on cigarettes in Arizona is less than a penny apiece. And Arizona already imposes a tax on loose tobacco to the tune of two cents per ounce. The levy on rolling papers would mean that cowpokes and others who find a hand-rolled cigarette preferable to a Marlboro would pay more in taxes than their buy-the-pack city cousins.
Bartlett, who cosponsored the Senate bill with Tempe Republican Doug Todd, saw estimates that the tax could raise up to $3 million annually. That's also the professed aim of Mesa Representative Mark Killian, who is sponsoring identical legislation in the House. Killian, who chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, has campaigned for election in previous years on platforms of limiting taxes. "To tell you the truth, we're looking at a revenue generator," Killian says.
Yet Killian also is sponsoring legislation to eliminate the state sales tax on the leasing of commercial property, a move that eventually would cost the state about $170 million annually. Killian says this tax, which is imposed in only five states, harms not only the business people who have to rent space but also makes it harder for owners of these buildings to attract tenants to Arizona from states without the tax. Killian should know: He owns four shopping centers in the East Valley.
The real point is that the excuses offered by proponents don't address the real issue--or the real users.
Killian estimates that Arizona consumers buy about three million packages of rolling papers a year. And, he says, there aren't that many people in this state, even with its Wild West roots, who still hand-roll tobacco cigarettes. "A lot of people are rolling their own marijuana cigarettes," Killian confesses. "And if that's the way to get to them, fine."
Killian and his cohorts also figured that neither the dopers nor the manufacturers of rolling papers would lobby to protect their interests. What they didn't count on is that pouches and tins of Top Tobacco include rolling papers, which would be subject to the fee. That brought out Rich Scheffel, whose client is Republic Tobacco Co., which distributes Top.
Scheffel wasted no time in badmouthing the bill. Like any good lobbyist, he explained that it wasn't just his client's sales he was protecting. He predicted the tax would create a new black market in rolling papers.
Scheffel managed to get an amendment on the bill to exempt any papers from the tax where they were sold with loose tobacco (which just happens to benefit only his client). But, by this time, the damage to the idea was done and, on Thursday, the bill went up in smoke.
SEAL OF DISAPPROVAL Only last month state lawmakers publicly berated the University of Arizona for spending more than $29,000 to redesign the school's logo. But Arizona State University apparently wasn't paying attention: It's pushing ahead with plans to pay someone big bucks for a similar job.
Bids were opened Monday from consultants who want the job of redesigning stationery for ASU President J. Russell Nelson and all of the university vice presidents. Part of that job, according to university documents, includes coming up with a new logo.
The problem, according to Bob Ellis, ASU vice president for university relations, is that there are almost as many letterhead designs and logos being used on campus as there are departments. He insists that there is no way to save money by simply ordering all departments to use the same letterhead.
"This is a university," he explains. "Universities don't work quite that well where a dictum comes from on high to the athletic department or the political science department. It's usually done through a consensus."
Anyway, Ellis says, this isn't a simple project. The notice to bidders states there is a need for "a well-defined, recognizable, visible image for the university that will lend consistency while accommodating a richness of sub-images reflecting the components of the university; e.g., College of Fine Arts, athletic department, ASU West Campus, College of Law, et cetera."
UofA lobbyist Greg Fahey tried a similar explanation of the $29,012 spent by his school on a new logo. He said the successful bidder didn't simply design a new "A." It also required six flights to the UofA campus--at a cost of about $8,000--to "inventory" what symbols and logos already were being used and "research" how best to represent the university.