Are Sin Taxes Healthy for State Budgets?


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Are Sin Taxes Healthy for State Budgets?

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law and paved the way for states to legalize sports betting. In the weeks following the decision, state leaders have speculated about the new tax revenue that sports betting could bring in, and some have already sanctioned the activity. Meanwhile, state policymakers continue to consider other new so-called “sin tax” sources— including e-cigarettes and marijuana.

The National Conference of State Legislatures hosted a webinar featuring two new, related reports from The Pew Charitable Trusts. These reports find that sin taxes may pose budgeting challenges over the long-term and that states may want to consider adopting policies to manage different forms of “nonrecurring revenue”—revenue that is inconsistent or volatile from year to year.

In this webinar, Pew experts presented their analysis of past revenue performance of taxes on tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and legalized recreational marijuana; states’ approaches to managing nonrecurring revenue; and best practices states can adopt for each revenue type. Larson Silbaugh, principal economist with Colorado’s Legislative Council Staff, also present edon his state’s experience with marijuana tax revenue. A question-and-answer period concluded the webinar.

These studies are part of Pew’s ongoing work on structurally balanced state budgets. For more information about Pew’s work, please visit its website.

View the Webinar



  • Mary Murphy, project director, Fiscal Policy, State and Local Fiscal Health, The Pew Charitable Trusts 
  • Larson Silbaugh, principal economist with Colorado’s Legislative Council Staff

This webinar is made possible with the generous support of The Pew Charitable Trusts.