Soda Tax Dies as Beverage Industry Outspends Health Groups


When New York lawmakers finally passed the budget on Wednesday, Governor Paterson’s tax on sodas and other sugary drinks was not included. The proposal would have taxed sweetened beverages — not diet sodas — at a penny per ounce, or 12 cents on a can of soda. The governor and his supporters pointed to studies that show a link between consumption of the calorific drinks and obesity, and all the diseases that go with it.

Today, The New York Times offers a postmortem on the tax. The upshot is that, despite the support of most editorial pages and health advocates, the proposal died because New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, a group set up by the beverage and grocery industry, outspent the Alliance for a Healthier New York, a group of health advocates and the health care workers union. New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes spent $9.5 million in just the first four months of the year to fight the tax, while the Alliance for a Healthier New York spent between $2.5 million and $5 million.

You’ve probably heard the ads on the radio or seen them on TV: A small boy mixes up powdered lemonade while his angry mother tells Albany to “leave our groceries alone.” Talk of cutting back on soda to prevent diabetes and obesity just can’t compete with a child who wants his (corn-syrup-laden) lemonade.