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MA governor proposes taxing soda and candy

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 30-Jan-2012

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has proposed eliminating a sales tax exemption on soda and candy in the state as part of the state’s 2013 budget, and plough extra taxes raised into public health programs.

As part of his fiscal 2013 budget recommendation, Patrick said that eliminating the current sales tax exemption would raise $61.5m over the course of the year. Most of this amount would be dedicated to the Commonwealth Health and Preservation Fund for public health and preventative care services, according to a statement from the governor’s office, with about $10m to go toward the School Building Authority and Commonwealth Transportation Fund.

Eliminating the exemption would make candy and soda subject to the state’s 6.25% sales tax.

The move is intended not only to raise funds, but also as a way to help tackle obesity and mitigate obesity-related costs, according to the governor’s budget proposal. It has been framed as a part of a package of “health promotion and wellness investments”, alongside a new 50-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes sold in the state.

“By eliminating the sales tax exemption for soda and candy, the Commonwealth preserves more than $51m in funding for public health programs while at the same time discouraging overconsumption of sugary foods and drinks,” according to an issue brief on the Massachusetts government website .

“In the past 10 years, the percentage of Massachusetts adults with diabetes has almost doubled, and obesity will soon pass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death,” it says.

“Consumption of candy and soda is on the rise. Per capita candy consumption has increased steadily since the mid-1980s. Candy and soda add significant non-nutritional calories to the diets of Americans and are directly linked to obesity, especially among children.”

Massachusetts would join 33 other states that apply sales tax to soda, and 17 other states that apply sales tax to candy, if the tax exemption were to be implemented.

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