April 21st, 2011
Texas lawmakers to debate soda tax
San Antonio Business Journal
Despite lawmaker pledges not to raise taxes, one Texas senator proposed a new tax he hopes will help with the budget deficit and improve the health of Texans.
“I’m trying to find a way of addressing one of the most important issues in our daily lives — health care,” said Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, author of Senate Bill 1004, which would tax natural- or artificially-sweetened soft drinks.
The bill would add a tax of a penny per ounce, or about 12 cents, to the price of a can of soda. The Rudd Foundation — which funds research and education in the fight against obesity and weight discrimination — estimates the tax could generate an additional $4 billion in revenue for the next biennium, while the fiscal note from the Legislative Budget Board attached to the bill estimates a $1 billion positive impact for the next two years.
Lucio said that the soda pop industry has enjoyed low prices while the price of healthy foods keep increasing, as have the health care issues associated with a diet that includes soda pop. Proponents of the bill hope that raising the price will discourage consumption, as with tobacco products.
Senator Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chair of the Senate Finance committee, allowed the bill to be heard; however, according to the state constitution, all tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives.
“The point of this bill is to get a conversation started,” Lucio said. “Not only would a bill like this raise revenue that could go to healthcare and education, it would help us save money in the long run by cutting expenses associated with health issues like obesity and diabetes.”