When you hear “sin tax,” do you think of alcohol or tobacco? What about junk food? Gas? Casinos?
On Tuesday, the MA Joint Committee on Revenue–led by the rising star, Sen. Ben Downing–held a hearing to get feedback on a litany of schemes to raise revenue. In addition to proposals to close alcohol and tobacco tax loopholes, three representatives of the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council (see below) testified in support of a tax on “sugar-sweetened beverages and minimally-nutritious snacks, at 8% and 10% respectively.” The proceeds would be spent on a “Wellnes Trust” to fund “innovative projects to promote equal access to healthy food and exercise.” Source: MA Public Health Association.
There are two compelling motivations for a junk food tax: Reduce junk food consumption by children, and raise revenue to pay for some of the costs associated with it: “obesity and related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.”
(Though of course, if kids eat less junk food, the tax revenue will also diminish.)
Why stop at junk food? With similar rationales from various interest groups, Governor Patrick is aggressively pursuing a 19-cent gas tax, and he hopes to downgrade gambling from “illegal” to “sin” partly in order to be able to tax it. Those are stickier wickets.