Drink tax is no ‘sweet’ deal

Published 8:44 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It is no secret that the state is facing a budget crisis today. A variety of solutions have been proposed, including the expansion of gambling, cutting government funding, and additional taxes. One idea, which has Gov. Robert Bentley’s support, would be an additional tax on soft drinks.

Obviously, such a tax could have a detrimental effect on one of the city’s employers. Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Atmore provides jobs for 49 citizens, and also contributes to community causes both monetarily and through volunteerism by its employees. However, even if Pepsi were not here, we would still be opposed to this proposal.

This tax is arbitrary, unfair and would disproportionately hurt lower-income citizens and families. Proponents of the measure point to “sin” taxes like levies on cigarettes and alcohol. They say that because increased health care costs trickle down to all taxpayers, then the government should punish those who participate in unhealthy activities.

But where do you draw the line? If soft drinks are taxed, why not fast food? Why not television and computers, which encourage a sedentary lifestyle? And what would qualify as a soft drink? Carbonated drinks like Pepsi products would seem obvious, but what about energy drinks, or sports drinks, or even some kinds of fruit juice?

It should also be noted that there is already a sales tax on soft drinks in Alabama, set at 4 percent. Some states have no sales tax on soft drinks.

As correctly noted by Atmore city officials, such a tax would also encourage citizens to travel across the border to Florida to purchase soft drinks. This would harm far more businesses than just Pepsi.

Bentley’s soft drink tax is a dangerous proposal that could easily lead down a “slippery slope” of additional bad taxes. We hope that this idea fizzles out.