NY Times on Fireworks Bans and Tax Revenue

by Gabe Bullard on July 3, 2011

Several American cities, counties and states (including Kentucky) have recently lifted or relaxed longstanding bans on fireworks. As the New York Times reports, the changes are expected to generate more tax revenue for cash-strapped governments. And while some southern states have put new limits on pyrotechnics to avoid wildfires in the wake of dry weather, the paper reports that only four states–New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware–ban the sale of fireworks entirely.

But in many places, concerns about safety have been trumped by the need for more cash and an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Officials in some states, like Pennsylvania, have eased their worries by limiting firework sales for their own residents but allowing out-of-state customers to binge on a vast array of exotic offerings.

The piece also covers the fact that many state lawmakers felt they were losing revenue to neighboring states.

One of the main reasons bans are being lifted is that residents can simply drive to the next town, or state, to buy fireworks.

“I’m tired of other counties sucking us dry,” said Mr. Bailey, the county commissioner in Tennessee, who said Hawkins County now had a dozen or so fireworks stands. “It’s a concern when our tax dollars fund services in surrounding counties and we need to improve infrastructure at home.”

In Nebraska, Jim Suttle, the mayor of Omaha, said his city lifted its fireworks ban because everyone was buying them anyway but driving to nearby towns to spend the money.

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