Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Paterson in Fat City?

As his poll numbers continue to slip slide away, Governor Paterson has returned to an idea that was not only defeated last year, but had been previously set aside by the governor himself-the proposed fat tax on soda. As the NY Post reports: "That didn't take long! Less than week after calling on lawmakers to address New York's budget crisis without raising taxes, Gov. Paterson fizzled out and suggested he would take another pop at passing a state soda tax. "I promise I will put (the soda tax) back in my budget address and give the Legislature another chance to do it," Paterson said during an interview on WNYC. "But you can’t keep voting down the ways to create revenues and then saying you don’t want to make cuts."

But this statement belies the fact that Paterson himself has any number of ways to unilaterally cut the fat from the state budget-but wants to enlist the legislature so as to share the responsibility. But a fat tax is definitely not needed at a time when the economy is reeling-and it is basically simply a dishonest way to raise revenues by pretending you're doing something else: addressing an obesity epidemic.

And this is the kind of tax that falls disproportionately o New York's poorest citizens-the ones most likely to consume soda and other sugary products. But, just like other so-called "sin taxes," a tax on soda can be cloaked in righteousness-and that is a tempting proposition for a politician-even more so than the slug of a Pepsi on a hot summer's day.