Juan Candelaria, a Connecticut state lawmaker, recently introduced a proposal to tax candy and soda. The proposal resembles legislation favored by a member of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from none other than Connecticut.
The state bill would impose a tax of one cent per ounce on soda and candies, raising revenue for childhood obesity, municipalities and the Governor’s Scholarship program.
Municipalities, states and the federal government are grappling to find ways to combat an obesity epidemic that plagues the country, a topic SupplySide Boardroom Journal explored more than a year ago. Connecticut’s Office of Legislative Research identified four states that impose an excise tax on soft drinks: Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
“While most states do not impose excise taxes on candy or soft drinks, many tax these goods at a higher sales tax rate than other grocery food," the research office stated in a Jan. 16 report. “Of the 46 jurisdictions (45 states and the District of Columbia) that impose a state sales tax, 18 jurisdictions tax candy and 23 tax soft drinks at a higher rate than other groceries."
Whether taxes dissuade consumption of sugary foods is debatable, and Candelaria’s proposal already faces opposition from the confectionary industry and at least one colleague: state Rep. Joe Markley.
“The world is full of unhealthy things," Markley said Feb. 3, commenting on the bill, the New Haven Independent reported.
“If we start going down that road, there’s going to be no end to it," the lawmaker continued. “We have to respect people’s ability to make decisions for themselves, even if they’re not good decisions. Real liberalism is about allowing people to have autonomy and respecting them as human beings. It’s easy to get in this frame of mind, ‘If it’s not good for us, let’s tax it.’"
Candelaria may have borrowed the taxation idea from DeLauro. Last year, she moved to impose an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Through an amendment of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax (SWEET) Act of 2014 would have imposed a tax of one cent per teaspoon of caloric sweetener such as high-fructose corn syrup or sugar.
Although the bill wasn’t enacted, the debate over taxation of sugary foods is far from over.