Marketplace Scratch Pad

The budget vice squad

Scott Jagow Jan 19, 2010

Today, New York’s governor unveiled his proposal to deal with the country’s fourth largest state deficit. It’s a peek at what other states might do to deal with their budget holes this year. In New York, it seems no vice is left out — drinking, smoking, gambling, speeding, sugar highs. The governor even wants to allow certain people to kick and punch each other in the face.

Governor David Paterson’s suggested new taxes include $1 more for a pack of cigarettes and a penny more per ounce on sugary drinks. But that’s not all:

The governor also wants to raise revenue by legalizing mixed martial arts, a more brutal form of fighting that’s legal in dozens of states, including New Jersey. Previous efforts to allow ultimate fighting have died in committee in Albany.

State residents would also be allowed to buy wine in grocery stores and gamble at video lottery terminals more hours of the day, but would have to be careful of additional speed enforcement cameras that would be deployed.

Legalizing MMA would bring in an estimated $2.1 million. The cigarette tax, at $3.75 a pack, would be the highest in the country. The extra dollar is supposed to raise $218 million; the soda tax — $465 million. New York’s budget hole is $7.4 billion.

But new taxes and new violent sports aren’t the only measures. Paterson also proposes billions of dollars in cuts to school programs and state agencies — from the Environmental Protection Fund to the city of New York.

“There are no more easy answers. We cannot keep spending money that we do not have,” Paterson said in a written statement.

Except it seems on highways and bridges. That trust fund will be increased by $7 billion over two years.

Here’s another one — hospitals, doctors and nursing homes would face new surcharges, including a 9.63% levy on “services performed in hospitals.”

I wonder if that includes stitching up Ultimate Fighters.

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