Saturday, March 14, 2009
Utah Legislator Calls for Tax on Coffee
States look to addictions as a revenue stream.
Are caffeine revenue streams the next big thing, or a bright idea whose time will never come? Will we see the staging of a Boston (make that Salt Lake City) Coffee Party by disgruntled, under-caffeinated voters, if the state of Utah has its way?
We do it with tobacco products. We do it with alcoholic beverages. We slap a hefty extra “sin tax” on addictive but legal products as an easy source of revenue. Times are tough. State revenue streams have dried up. But coffee? Caffeinated soft drinks?
Taxing caffeine would be “like taxing candy,” according to one Utah resident, reacting to a state legislator’s call for a tax on caffeine products. The legislator in question, Republican state representative Craig Frank, suggested the measure after efforts to raise cigarette taxes in the state failed. The initial proposal centered on “cold caffeine” such as canned sodas, but was quickly broadened to include coffee and other caffeine products
Frank told the Salt Lake City Tribune in an article by Robert Gehrke that if the state was intent on “going after people who have problems with addiction for a revenue stream,” a tax on caffeine would be more broad-based than existing “sin taxes” on alcohol and cigarettes—two other highly addictive but legal substances. The government itself, said Frank, is “addicted to the fee revenues. So in light of that... why not cold caffeine?” Ultimately, why not caffeine, period? Frank pointed out that caffeine, like alcohol and nicotine products, has been linked to health problem, such as spontaneous abortion.
A recent study by the Rockefeller Institute of Government showed that Utah lost 16.5 per cent in tax revenues in the fourth quarter of 2008. The National average was 3.6 per cent.
In 2003, Seattle voters rejected a similar initiative that would have imposed a 10-cent tax on every cup of espresso-based coffee. Vancouver, B.C., tried and failed to enact a similar measure. Recently a councilperson in Nashville, TN, has also suggested a coffee tax. Last month, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano proposed to extract substantial state revenue from a sales tax on marijuana.
All of these efforts have met with a significant lack of enthusiasm on the part of the citizenry.
Picture Credit: Worth1000