Could a Tax on Sugary Drinks Help Americans Avoid the Fiscal Cliff?


Some believe lawmakers should consider taxing sugary drinks to help avoid falling off the so-called fiscalВ cliff. The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest said a penny-an-ounce tax would yield $160В billion over 10 years.

“Soda and sugary drinks are fueling an epidemic of costly diseases, and the fact that these drinks are dirtВ cheap is part of the problem,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson in a written statement. “AВ truly balanced approach to deficit reduction should not leave this easy money on the table.”

The group also targeted increased taxes on alcoholic beverages for an additional $14 billion a year. It saidВ those taxes have not increased in more than 20 years. To make his case, Jacobson wrote to members ofВ the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as budget committeesВ for both the House and Senate. He noted that more than 30 states have placed excise or sales taxes onВ sugar-sweetened drinks to boost funds.

It’s a controversial, but not new, idea. It has also been supported by the Economic Policy Institute and theВ Bipartisan Policy Center. Former Secretary of Treasury Lawrence Summer told tax economists, “MarkВ my words, this one will come,” according to a story in the Washington Post.

The Peterson Foundation wanted to expand ideas to reduce the deficit over time and recently hired fiveВ think tanks to come up with plans. The groups include the Center for American Progress and theВ Economic Policy Institute on the more liberal side, the conservative American Action Forum and theВ Heritage Foundation, and the more neutral Bipartisan Policy Center. Of those, BPC and EPI want taxesВ on sweetened drinks, according to the Post’s Wonkblog.

Some state legislatures have already adopted some form of sugar tax, while others are considering it. ForВ instance, WCAX said the Vermont Legislature will consider the issue early next year. It won’t be the firstВ time that body has considered a tax on sweetened drinks, but it may have a more realistic chance ofВ passing this time around, the station said.

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