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New York News

NY "Sugar Tax" Revisited

By Dave Lucas

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-951801.mp3

Albany, NY – Although New York's newly appointed Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah has made it clear he will not be implementing the so-called "sugar tax", there's been a lot of speculation that the Health Department is gauging public sentiment on the issue. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

In his quest to keep New York State solvent, Governor David Paterson tried - and failed - more than once to get a tax on sugary drinks passed. His proposal would have taxed about one cent per ounce of sugary drinks. Paterson argued the tax would help fight obesity. Then-Health Commissioner Dr. Richad Daines pushed hard for the tax, taking the battle to youtube to try and win support - but - A Quinnipiac University poll taken during Paterson's second shot at the legislation showed nearly 60 percent of New York State voters opposed a tax on non-diet sugary soft drinks.

The American Beverage Association was one of many organizations that came to Albany last spring to lobby against the tax. The ABA claimed the tax would eliminate as many as 20-thousand jobs and drive major revenue-producing corporations out of New York State. Cory Beckler of vendor SpecMark Sales, said the tax would be a pox on her industry.

The Rumor Mill recently fired up when reporters discovered the state Health Department has been conducting a telephone survey that includes among its questions, if a tax on sugary soda would make them more or less likely to purchase such products? Health Department officials say there is no cause for alarm. According to Claudia Hutton, Director of Public Affairs at the New York State Health Department, the survey is part of a broader grant that also funds efforts to develop more pedestrian walkways as well as nutrition issues. Governor Andrew Cuomo is on record, stating that his pledge of "no new taxes" extends to the "sugar tax" on sodas and other sweetened beverages.