Sugar Tax: A life saver or a job killer?

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hold on to your soda can, state lawmakers are seriously considering a new tax on sugar sweetened drinks. It would raise a lot of money to help plug some budget holes in some very worthwhile causes, but at what cost?

The “Sugar Tax” would affect any beverage, carbonated or not carbonated that contains a “caloric sweetener.” That’s anything that adds calories to a drink like sugar or sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup. It would not apply to drinks with artificial sweeteners.

The one cent per ounce “Sugar Tax” would be in addition to the existing “Sales Tax.” That means a 20 ounce bottle of ‘Coke,’ which costs $1.85 in the convenience store would have a 20 cent ‘Sugar Tax’ plus the 12 cent ‘Sales Tax’ for grand total of 32 cents in tax, plus the nickel deposit. It is estimated the ‘Sugar Tax’ would cost Connecticut consumers about $85 million a year.

The goal is to help raise money for the ‘Care4Kids‘ program, which as News 8 first reported last year, has faced severe budget cuts. Care4Kids is designed to help keep people off welfare. It allows parents that work, but don’t make a lot of money, to get quality care for their kids while they are at work. The numbers of Connecticut parents on the Care4Kids wait list is reported to be somewhere between 3 and 5,000.

“It provides for improved public health benefits and also provides needed resources for programs for families and children,” said Daniel Long of ‘Voices for Children.’

“To dissuade people from drinking so much of these products and that’s really how taxes work with tobacco,” said Dr. David Katz of the Yale Prevention Research Center.

But lawmakers are also hearing from the big beverage companies, like Coke and Pepsi.

“Really not looking to add more burden to consumers, especially low and middle income consumers for whom this is going to be a big deal,” said Kevin Dietly was at the Capitol representing American Beverage Association.

The Teamsters Union that says where it’s been tried, the resulting decrease in sales has been a job killer.

“We saw a big decrease in jobs in the Philadelphia area once this ‘Soda Tax’ went into affect. Drivers, warehousemen, production workers, about 30 percent decline in workers,” said Chris Roos of the Teamsters Union Local 1035.

Obviously in Philadelphia it did cause people to cut back on sugary drinks, but at a big cost. Asked about this, Governor Dannel Malloy will simply say “Not my proposal.” Whether that means he would or would not sign a budget bill that contained the “Sugar Tax” went unanswered.

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