Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Rights & Reason: Victory in D.C.?

Reports suggest the D.C. Council won't adopt a smoking ban. The key development: Mayor Anthony Williams said he'll veto a proposed ban. WJLA-TV reports, "The mayor says with the hospitality industry being so important to the city’s economy, he can’t support an outright smoking ban for bars, restaurants and nightclubs." Emphasis on "outright." It appears the mayor will back a proposal by Councilmember Carol Schwartz, a moderate Republican, to give a 15% tax credit each year to bars and restaurants that voluntarily ban smoking.

If I were on the Council, I would vote against Schwartz's "compromise." Businesses can already ban smoking voluntarily. I strongly disfavor using tax policy to encourage particular business decisions. That's how health care got screwed up in the first place—when businesses were offered a tax credit for offering their employees health insurance. That turned out to be the first step in the socialization of health care.

That said, I give Schwartz partial credit for trying to make the best of a bad situation. Schwartz's proposal won't inflict economic harm the way the proposed ban would. And presumably the mayor wants something to support rather than simply opposing a measure that's popular among the city's political elite.

No comments: