There are three things you can say about a soda tax for Texas:
1. It would raise some revenue.
2. It would make people drink less soda, which would likely have some modest health benefit.
3. It ain’t gonna happen.
Republican lawmakers have vowed to close the budget hole without a new tax. But that hasn’t stopped Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, from proposing a penny per ounce tax on soft drinks.
At a Senate Finance hearing [Monday] morning, he suggested his measure could bring in billions of dollars to the state, while curbing consumption of sugary drinks linked to childhood obesity and diabetes.
“I have become convinced we cannot cut our way out of the financial hole we find ourselves in without devastating the services millions of Texans rely upon,” he said.
But while public health experts testified that the measure would dramatically curb the purchase of soft drinks, and limit the calories and caffeine young people consume, representatives from the beverage industry questioned the data, and said there’s no simple solution to the obesity epidemic.
“Common sense tells us, and science proves, that taxes don’t necessarily make people healthier,” said Bill McManus, director of government affairs for the American Beverage Association. “Making smart, educated decisions about diet and exercise do that.”
Lucio’s bill is SB1004. Among other things, legislation that raise revenues must originate in the House, so that should tell you what its odds are. But let’s be clear about a few things. This would raise revenue, which the state desperately needs. It would also reduce the consumption of soda, as any price increase would, and in doing so would reduce the amount of sugar and high fructose corn syrup that people consume. Given the evidence that the consumption of these items is bad for you, reducing their consumption would be a boon for better health. It’s by no means a cure-all – only beverage industry lobbyists say that it claims to be – but it would help a little, and the only way we’re going to see a marked improvement in Americans’ health is by doing a lot of things that each help a little. In other words, it’s much like tobacco taxes. That’s how I see it, anyway. Not that it really matters since it ain’t gonna happen, but there you have it.