It's Our Money

Voters want a say in spending

Thirsty West Virginians who plunk quarters into soda machines help finance a state medical school. Cigarette smokers in Washington State cough up $31.7 million a year to clean Puget Sound, while home buyers in Maryland pay transfer fees that help buy new parklands. This practice of earmarking taxes for specific government functions is growing steadily: at least 18 states have adopted targeted taxes since mid-1984, and dozens more such levies -- for schools, police, roads, drug-abuse treatment -- are pending in states from California to Michigan.

The fresh popularity of earmarking shows that much has changed, and much has not, since...

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