These days, state governors don’t have a lot of clout with the public. Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has his corruption mess going on. And not long ago, Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York bowed out in shame after his infidelities. But his successor has a budget – and obesity – crisis he wants to tackle.
Governor David Paterson, the man who took Spitzer’s place, has an idea, and it’s not endearing him to many more people than the aforementioned public servants.
Governor Paterson wrote a special commentary for CNN.com explaining why he feels that we need to have an obesity tax. Like most of us, Paterson is worried about the epidemic that is childhood obesity. One way he wants to combat it is by taxing soft drinks, something he’s proposed in his latest state budget.
Paterson lays out his case by examining the domino effect of health problems caused by unhealthy eating, and by quoting some of the alarming statistics surrounding our nation’s obesity problem.
He uses his state’s tax increase on cigarettes as an example of how it can work:
“In June, New York state raised the state cigarette tax an additional $1.25. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, this increase alone will prevent more than 243,000 kids from smoking, save more than 37,000 lives and produce more than $5 billion in health care savings.”
He goes on to say, “These taxes may be unpopular, but their benefits are undeniable. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, for the first time in generations, fewer than 20 percent of Americans smoked. Lung cancer rates have finally begun to decline. As a result, we are all healthier.”
New Yorkers would also face tax hikes on beer and wine. While the motivation is, in part, for the betterment of public health, it’s also a way of closing the deficit gap in the state budget.
“This is where we are,” Paterson said. “We should have thought about this when we were depending on what we thought was inexhaustive collections of taxes from Wall Street, and now those taxes have fallen off a cliff.”