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A SWAT at an effort aimed at graffiti that hits the wrong target

Submitted by on Friday, 20 March 2009 No Comment

Once in a great while an idea comes along that’s so deliciously foolish that you’re eager to see it put to a vote of the people. With all the serious issues on the ballot, a little levity at the polls wouldn’t be a bad thing.

People would be doubled over in the precincts after reading a magic marker tax on the ballot.

Thanks for the laugh, California State Sen. Carol Liu.

The Burbank Democrat is the sponsor of Senate Bill 138, which would let local governments ask voters to approve an extra tax of up to 50 cents per can of spray paint and 25 cents per felt-tip marker – limited to those with a “flat or angled writing surface of one-half inch or greater.”

Thank heaven that definition was included. The biggest markers the guys currently have, their coveted Dry-Erase set, weigh in at a quarter inch. Whew!

Liu’s bill is an attempt to help local officials fight graffiti, though the bill doesn’t require that the money be spent in that area. Cities and counties already have the right to ask for a much lower tax, 10 cents per can of paint and a nickel per marker. The law also taxes “other marking substances,” which is defined later as including shoe polish. As if I need another excuse to not clean my footwear.

It could be worse. Liu could be proposing a ban.

In Oakland, Calif., it’s already illegal to sell markers a half-inch or larger to those under 18, and it’s also illegal for teens to use them except under the supervision of an adult or teacher. That officially makes Oakland’s marker regulations tougher than the state’s driving law.

Liu’s heart no doubt is in the right place. Her logic, though, is a bit like mine after I’ve been exposed to a few too many Dry-Erase fumes.

Is not the cost of higher education high enough without adding $2.50 to the cost of a $5 pack of highlighters? Should not cheerleaders be able to make posters touting their car washes without a $2 marker surcharge cutting into their profits? And isn’t the construction industry hit hard enough these days without adding a quarter excise to a $3 marker?

Auto makers complain about having to deal with two sets of emissions standards for cars. Just wait until the marker industry, faced with plummeting sales in California, is forced to retool for a 3/8-inch model.

Or until the taggers decide a smaller marker will work just fine. That’s already the weapon of choice for juvenile delinquents bent on vandalizing vacant homes in our neighborhood.

Maybe as a parent I should root for this one to pass.  It’s not unheard of for the guys to use markers for other than their intended uses  – walls, toys, coffee tables, each other. Plus I do get tired of replenishing the stock when a marker dies after spending the night without its cap.

“Sorry, guys. It’s going to cost me an extra quarter to replace that now, and it’s just not in the budget. Would you like me to take the money out of your allowance?

But just remember, though: When markers are outlawed, only outlaws will have markers.

Senator Liu, Stop Wasting America’s time. Taxes have gone up by necessity right now to pay for the essentials.  There’s no need to force consumers to pay extra for school supplies.

Know of someone who deserves a SWAT? Click here to make a nomination.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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