Our View: Budget flaws all about revenue

Something seems fundamentally wrong — both fiscally and morally — about balancing the state’s budget by taxing addiction.

That is essentially what the Kentucky House of Representatives did when they approved the $11.5 billion state revenue plan and restored many of Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed cuts by raising taxes on tobacco products and creating a new one for prescription painkillers.

Lets’s be clear: The plan looks good on paper and many of the groups facing cuts will tout its benefits because it lessens the blow for them personally.

The total spending plan allowed lawmakers to restore millions of dollars to a variety of programs that were slated to be cut under Bevin’s proposal.

But that doesn’t change the fact it is fundamentally flawed because of its funding approach.

Much of the increase in revenue is accomplished through implementing two taxes: a 50-cent per pack increase of the existing cigarette tax and a new tax on opioids, which amounts to 25-cents per dose at the wholesale level. These two taxes are expected to raise approximately $377 million, according to our partners at Kentucky Today.

Although this has been going on to some extent for years, these measures certainly raise the question as to what lawmakers are trying to accomplish. Is the intent to eliminate products that people become addicted to or are we simply trying balance our budget by adding taxes to products people feel they must have and also that are not likely to be protested by many.

Although the cigarette tax is certainly something that would be beneficial and may be a true deterrent, it is hard to believe  the opioid tax is about anything other than money. Hiding behind the argument it is a step toward fighting drug abuse in communities is downright laughable.

Even if lawmakers approve these measures, we hope they begin to truly look at long-term strategies and revenue growth that puts Kentucky’s budget on solid financial ground rather than building a plan out of a house of cards made of cigarettes and prescription drugs that will surely come tumbling down.