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How about a tax on politicians to avoid fattening California’s deficit?

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POSTED February 19, 2010 2:00 a.m.
The state bureaucracy is bloated.

It needs to go on a $20 billion diet in the next 18 months or else collapse under the weight of its own undisciplined spending. Making it all the more precarious is the smoke and mirrors the state used to bridge last year’s $31 billion deficit that is unraveling with every court decision and uncrossing of fingers on revenue projections.

So perhaps this is why in the middle of arguably the worst financial situation in Sacramento since the dark days of the Great Depression that State Senator Dean Florez is proposing a sugar tax on sodas.

Florez – who is the majority leader of the senate and hails from Shafter near Bakersfield –   on Thursday unveiled his “legislation aimed at curbing the rampant consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.” Florez’ taxpayer-financed public relations machine notes that sugary drinks are considered one of the leading causes of obesity and a major contributor to diabetes.

The zinger, of course, is that the good senator wants to advance his legislation which is “encouraging consumers to steer toward healthier alternatives.”

His release announcing the press conference fails to mention one little detail. Florez is proposing a tax.  It is a big fat tax.

Florez’ proposed tax is a penny per tablespoon of sugar. How much could that cost, you ask? Well, a conservative estimate says it would raise $1.5 billion a year.

A typical 20-ounce soda has 17 teaspoons of sugar which would translate into a 17 cent tax. A 23-ounce Green Leaf Arizona Tea has 12 tablespoons of sugar thus a 12 cent tax. That, of course, is on top of the sales tax the state already collects.

We are assured that the $1.5 billion collected annually would go to help offset the impacts of obesity on health care as obesity-related diseases account for 10 percent of all medical spending in the country or $147 billion a year.

Fat chance. Remember 1991? That was the height of the last recession in California. It is when we got the snack tax put in place to help eliminate – surprise, surprise – a state budget deficit.

Let’s make it clear. The money raised will go toward state programs. And once the state collects money for state programs the state has become very proficient at splitting hairs and twisting words and the intent of laws around so they can use the money as they please to get them out of jams. And when they can no longer manipulate, twist, and milk a tax they simply go back to our collective pockets.

If the senator is really sincere about ending childhood obesity why doesn’t he just do something such as propose legislation to prohibit the sale of sugar-laced drinks to anyone under 18? Big Government knows best. And in this case if the statistics back the senator up, why doesn’t he cut to the chase?

Florez can slice and dice it all he wants but in the end he wants Big Government to regulate personal behavior for a “noble cause.”

And when a welfare mom spends 17 cents more on a soda for her child thanks to the sugar tax exactly what will Florez’  law have accomplished?

The kid is still drinking sugary drinks and now there is 17 cents less to pay for food.

If the state – or more precisely politicians such as Florez – wants to modify behavior they shouldn’t beat around the bush. By using circuitous ways to get their way forced upon the people such as penalty or sin taxes, they are political cowards. It is also a wildly inefficient way to attack a problem.

In reality, the reason they don’t propose straight up bans is that people will see their actions for what they are: Big Government controlling the minute details of your life.

Bill Dombrowski of the California Retailers Association called Florez’ proposal for what it really is –another grab by the state to take more of the private sector’s money in order to control our lives even more.

Perhaps Florez should worry about the obesity problem that is even more deadly to the health of Californians – the never ending state appetite to keep expanding its bureaucratic waist by chugging on tax dollars like a teen chugging a six-pack of Mountain Dew.
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