04/28/04 — Bad policy: Don’t single out a few for a special state tax

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Bad policy: Don’t single out a few for a special state tax

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said Mort Congleton of a scheme to extract more tax money from pet owners.

It’s a no-brainer, all right. Anyone who supports it is using no brain.

That, of course, is not what Mort Congleton meant. Congleton is with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Wake County, and he likes a plan approved by a House of Representatives commission.

The commission is working on ways to reduce animal neglect. Someone came up with the idea of increasing taxes on companies that make pet food. The pet food companies would then pass the tax along to their customers in the form of higher prices.

The plan would add about a dime to a 20-pound bag of dog food and about two cents to a can. The $8 million or so that was generated would help pay for euthanizing unwanted cats and dogs, for sterilizing pets and for fixing up shelters.

At a hearing in Raleigh last week, the Pet Food Institute laid out plenty of reasons that this is a bad proposal. Among them: What it would cost the companies to implement the rules is underestimated, and the amount of revenue that the state would get is overestimated.

Here’s another reason: It is not good policy to single out particular types of citizens, in this case pet food companies and pet owners, for special taxes. They would be penalized unfairly.

The goals of the bill — pet sterilizations, humane euthanasia, updated shelters — are worthwhile. But if they are state functions, they are functions for all of us to provide, not just a chosen few.

People who buy dog food and cat food should not be blamed and punished for the irresponsibility of people who do not care for their pets. That’s a no-brainer.

Published in Editorials on April 28, 2004 11:18 AM