Out of Control Policy Blog

The Bad Idea Club

Welcomes the Montana state legislature.

Lawmakers there are considering a tax on big box retailers to offset welfare costs for low-paid employees:

    The measure would impose a 1 percent tax on stores with more than $20 million in sales. It would rise to 1.5 percent for more than $30 million and 2 percent for sales of more than $40 million.

Then again a common alternative to low wage employment is, well, unemployment. My hunch is that those who have a job, even if the pay isn't great, impose less welfare cost on the rest of us than the unemployed.

Montana might now have more opportunity to examine the effects of unemployment since the bill

    has irked retailers and prompted Costco to postpone plans to build a larger store in Kalispell, population 13,000, in the northwest corner of the state.

    "We're waiting to see how the legislation shakes out," said Doug Schutt, head of operations for Costco's northern division. "The bill singles out retailers, and we think that's unfair."

These legislators do seem to be jumping on the hate-the-big-box bandwagon.

Fast food restaurants don't pay that well. Neither do movie theatres. And lots of these establishments are run by big corporations. Why not target these cash cows?

I don't want to give them any new ideas, but If we're going to slip into Orwellian rhetoric where job creators are welfare leeches, fast food joints and theaters would seem to be fair game, too.

But this is more about following fads, and right now bearing down on big boxes is the thing to do. It's probably even more about government greed.

After all:

    The tax would apply to 160 stores, accounting for about half the state's total retail activity, and funnel about $20 million a year to state coffers...

That's a pretty penny to a small state like Montana.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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