Empire State Governor David Paterson wasn’t bluffing when he said last fall that he wanted to bring his widely panned soft-drink tax proposal back from the grave. You might remember that in December 2008, he proposed an 18 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages like sports drinks, energy drinks, and soda to try to close a budget shortfall. By February, however, his proposal had lost its fizz. His new plan, announced yesterday, is a penny-per-ounce tax—so if a 20-ounce sports drink costs a dollar, it would amount to a 20 percent tax on soft drinks.
While food cop Kelly Brownell giddily called the first proposal “bold reform” and has since been throwing his weight around trying to get a penny-per-ounce fee on sugary drinks, taxpayers haven’t been so gung-ho. A Quinnipiac University poll found that only 37 percent of New Yorkers supported taxes on their sugary drinks. And those numbers likely haven’t gone anywhere but south. A (national) poll released in September by the Opinion Research Corporation found that two-thirds of Americans oppose such a tax. There’s good reason: People rightfully realize that paternalistic politicians have no business creating special fees to engineer what we put in our mouths.
As we’re telling the media today, Paterson’s soft drink tax sequel earns a review as flat as the original:
The tax code should not be a tool of social engineering against New Yorkers who choose to make food and drink choices that paternalistic officials like Governor Paterson don’t approve of. New York state is home to the Big Apple, not Big Brother.
There is no single cause of obesity, therefore singling out sugary drinks makes no sense. Paterson’s latest proposal only serves to fatten the wallets of Albany politicians, not trim New Yorkers’ waistlines.