Sure, it’s one of those titles that makes you say, hmmm. But there’s something interesting happening in the City of Brotherly Love this summer and the forecast seems to spell trouble. The Mayor of Philadelphia is looking at budget shortfalls, like many other big, Northeastern cities, and is particularly concerned about covering the school budget. Apparently unaware of the dismal results other metropolitan areas have obtained with similar schemes, the mayor has listened to the siren songs and is trying to get a cigarette tax put in place, you know… for the children. (In case you’re wondering why I didn’t mention the mayor by name up to this point, for those of you not familiar with Philly politics I thought I’d let you experience it in this oh so appropriate article title.

Nutter Happy To See Schools Opening But Presses Pa. Legislature For Action

Mayor Nutter says he is relieved that Philadelphia public schools will open on time this fall, but he is repeating his call on state lawmakers to quickly approve the cigarette-tax bailout plan.

The mayor found little to smile about in the superintendent’s announcement, despite the fact that schools will open on time. That’s because the interim cuts imposed now by Hite will, in Nutter’s view, affect learning…

And the mayor says the superintendent’s decision doesn’t change the far larger question: whether and when Harrisburg will approve a cigarette surtax for Philadelphia.

“The bottom, bottom line of all of this is we still need the General Assembly to pass, finally, a cigarette tax-authorizing piece of legislation (and) get it to the governor’s desk as quickly as possible,” Nutter said.

Apparently Mayor Nutter hasn’t been listening to some of the experts who have been asked to weigh in on the proposal. And by experts, I include someone who is a former assistant director of the ATF.

A former assistant director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says if state lawmakers approve a new cigarette tax for Philadelphia, smuggling could become a problem.

Richard Marianos worked for more than twenty years on investigations of gangs and firearm trafficking operations, among other things.

He believes that if lawmakers approve a $2 per pack tax as proposed, criminals will see an opportunity to sell cigarettes illegally on the streets.

“They’re being sold on the black market to avoid taxes or they’re being sold on the black market to increase more criminal revenue and support more parts of a criminal organization.”

Marianos isn’t exactly new to the dance when it comes to this question, specifically in the area most affected. He’s studies the effect such unbalanced tax policy has had in the tri-state area, particularly right over the river in New Jersey.

“That means states like New Jersey are being robbed of taxes that could go to law enforcement, schools, emergency services, vital things that we use every day as taxpayers,” Marianos said.

He stressed black market tobacco smuggling has become “a high-profit, low-risk criminal enterprise. Compared to drug offenses where there’s a mandatory minimum sentence, there’s no penalties out there for the cigarette trafficker.”

So where are these cigarettes being sold?

“They’re being sold in the bodegas, in the convenience stores, they’re being sold on the street, they’re being sold in the housing projects,” Marianos said, “by street gangs like the Latin Kings, terrorist organizations, the Russian Mafia.”

See? You knew we were going to get back to the Russian mafia (*1) before this was over, right?

But seriously, how many times are we going to have to see this story play out where tax happy liberals think they can solve all their problems by bringing down the hammer with more unproductive sin taxes? It’s happened in New York and in New Jersey and in Maryland and in Chicago. It never ends well, and yet they keep thinking that somehow it will be different this time. Don’t the cops and federal agents in Philadelphia have enough on their plates already without dangling this sort of low hanging fruit in front of wannabe criminals?

*1 – DISCLAIMER: Just to be perfectly clear, we’re talking about the Russian mafia here. I wouldn’t want this to be misinterpreted as my giving credence to any unfair rumors about the existence of a mafia run by, say, Italians, either here in New York, or in the Garden State. All the Italians I know are decent, honest, hardworking people who would never be involved in such activities. Perhaps I should repeat that, particularly for the Five Boroughs and New Jersey. DECENT. HONEST. HARDWORKING. ITALIANS. (So… we cool?)