New Yorkers will soon be paying extra tax (on top of the 8.75% we already pay) on junk food. Oh, not now, maybe not even next year, but I'd say probably by the end of the decade. A state assemblyman has floated just such a proposal, and fortunately it looks like it will go nowhere in this session:
ALBANY, N.Y. - A proposal to tax junk food, video games and television commercials to pay for an obesity prevention program faces stiff opposition from lawmakers and business groups.
Chances of the proposal passing before lawmakers go home for the summer on June 19 looked slim after a spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said he would not support the tax.
The 1 percent tax hike proposed by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz would apply to junk food, video games and television commercials, which Ortiz blames on New York's growing obesity problem. Ortiz, a Democrat, did not rule out proposing tax increases on other things that he believes contribute to obesity.
Ortiz said the proposed tax would raise at least $1 million to jump-start the obesity prevention program aimed at developing health promotion campaigns, establishing nutrition and physical activity programs in schools and others.
Business groups oppose the proposal, arguing New Yorkers already face high taxes. The Legislature recently increased the state sales tax and income tax to help the state's fiscal crisis.
If there were any illustration as to why I generally prefer "business groups" to government, this is it. I'm sure the reporter looks at it differently - you know, Assemblyman Ortiz trying to save the children while evil "business groups" stymie him at every turn.
Unfortunately, given that the proposal purports to be "for the children" (and just incidentally means more power to lawmakers who feel it is their duty to tax things they don't like), the chances of it being signed into law after a few more tries are about as good as J. K. Rowling doing well on the New York Times Best Seller list in the next few weeks.
Newsday's Sheryl McCarthy goes from being skeptical to being a nearly-enthusiastic supporter in a single column. Oh, she opines that the tax won't really stop people from eating junk food. She notes that deciding which food should be labeled "junk" won't be easy. She implies that any money raised by the tax will probably be wasted on pork projects. And she admits the tax will fall heaviest (pun mine) on the poor. Yet she still thinks it's a good idea:
Is Ortiz's fat tax sounding better? Instead of trying to figure out if a candy bar that contains protein is a junk food or a health food, we could start by putting a 1-percent tax on soft drinks. Everyone agrees that they ruin your teeth, pack on the weight and have no nutritional value whatsoever.
Yes, but not everyone agrees that this is a valid reason to tax something! Note that she practically hopes that a tax on soda is just the beginning. What next? Apple juice? Coffee? Tea?