Soda industry lobbyist mocks proposed sugary-beverage tax

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 1:57pm

The state’s soft drink industry sent its lobbyist to the legislature Wednesday to denounce a Nashville lawmaker’s proposal to cut the sales tax on food and add a new tax on sugary beverages.

Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, wants to cut 1 percent from the state’s 5.5 percent grocery tax, which is the nation’s third highest. To make up for the lost tax revenue, he would impose a penny-an-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. He says his idea has the added bonus of helping fight Tennessee’s obesity epidemic.

The industry’s lobbyist, Raymond Thomasson, gave a mocking presentation to the House Budget Subcommittee, denying soft drink consumption is causing health problems.

“Soft drinks are not alcohol and they’re not tobacco,” he said. “No one is being arrested by the police for driving a vehicle and abusing the soft drink. I don’t believe there’s been health issue expressed over a second-hand soda.”

People are fat, Thomasson said, because they eat too much and don’t exercise enough.

“I defy anyone to tell me they’ve seen Barney the beagle, Suzy the St. Bernard or Felix the cat laying around drinking soft drinks and getting fat. It’s because they’re not exercising. Their masters are over-feeding their pets.”

The subcommittee didn’t vote on the bill, but decided to wait to consider it after the state budget is adopted at the end of this year’s session.

Thomasson called the new tax “Draconian” and accused Stewart of trying to demonize the soft-drink industry. He said chocolate milk and juice contain more sugar.

But Stewart said, “I’m not trying to demonize any industry. I’m a big Coke drinker. But I don’t mind paying a little more for a Coke so the mother down the street can pay a little less for milk. I think it would make for a more just tax policy for our families.”

Stewart presented his own witnesses, including a Vanderbilt University expert who said 26 percent of the state’s preschoolers now are overweight or obese and pointed out that obesity leads to diabetes, among other diseases. In the latest rankings, Tennessee is the nation’s second fattest state.

Filed under: City News

17 Comments on this post:

By: JohnGalt on 3/30/11 at 12:26

So, they won't up the tax on sugar-free soft drinks?

If you believe they won't extend the new tax to all soft drinks you should immediately investigate the beachfront property near Phoenix that is for sale.

By: HokeyPokey on 3/30/11 at 12:31

now I remember why they were called Soda Jerks...


By: gdiafante on 3/30/11 at 1:23

Raymond Thompson is in denial. I cut out all pop and I immediately lost 10 pounds.

Does he really think injesting copious amounts of sugar doesn't adversely affect a person's body? Especially sedentary individuals like kids doing nothing but playing video games.

Of course, when you're profession is "Lobbyist", you automatically lose IQ points.

By: Shane Smiley on 3/30/11 at 2:06

If the label reads, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, it should be taxed higher. For that matter, the whole processed sugar isle, filled with HO-Ho's lil Debbie, n such, should also be taxed higher. I like these things and am willing to spend a little more on them to save on my milk and vegetables.

By: courier37027 on 3/30/11 at 3:35

Why ban something that is considered bad for people when you can instead tax it?

By: NoodlesSarducci on 3/30/11 at 3:50

Comparing soft drinks to chocolate milk and juice is totally bogus.

Soft drinks have ZERO nutritional value. They are nothing but dead calories. Juice and milk both have high nutritional value.

100% juice - not those crappy fruit drinks - have lower sugar content. You can also drink low-fat chocolate milk.

This soft drink lobbyist sounds like he's taking a page from the cigarette industry.

Da Fatha

By: RTungsten on 3/30/11 at 11:26

If I'm reading this right, tax by the ounce would be $.64 cents on a 2lt of Coke. You think that will fly? Sure.... Who doesn't want to add $1.44 onto every "sugary" twelve pack sold? That is a 50% tax on many brands. To make up the lost revenue all Coke/Pepsi has to do is raise the diet drink prices right along with it. I'm glad to see our lawmakers are seeing the big picture here.

By: BigPapa on 3/31/11 at 7:50

I side with the soft drink makers on this one. Gatorade has as many calories.. there is nothing the American public won't blame on a) fast food and soft drinks b) video games c) global warming. I fully expect the events in Japan to be blamed on all three.

By: gdiafante on 3/31/11 at 8:08

You can't compare soda with Gatorade...that's ridiculous. You do understand the purpose of Gatorade, don't you?

By: AmyLiorate on 3/31/11 at 8:44

More taxes from the geniuses at Central Planning.

A politician only thinks there are a couple of tools and that those can fix anything. Later they are always amazed when their plan back fires or just plain fails.

By: govskeptic on 3/31/11 at 9:17

The Mother/Nanny (we know best) State is alive and well in Tenn
and especially Nashville and Maryville. Tax what we don't like but
don't tax what we do like is in the taste of the partaker! No way will
this proposal take in the amounts suggested, although the
publicity for the "Progressive" member has served it's intended purpose!

By: BigPapa on 3/31/11 at 9:25

yes, believe me I understand gatorade and yes you can compare them. You know marathoners used to drink flat coke prior to the development of gatorade.. not a huge amount of difference. it's a drink that allows you to replace sugar and electrolites lost during sweat... if it were carbonated you wouldnt know the difference.

By: Moonglow1 on 3/31/11 at 9:25

Moonglow1: this is a prime example of corporate influence. The lobbyist is paid at minimum 5-10 K per month to act as a mouthpiece for his client, the soda industry. The Tea Party controlled legislators will not support a Democrat.
One that is introducing legislation that would adversely impact corporate interests means war as far as the tea party is concerned. It doesn't matter if your health is at stake. Why should the tea party care? They are cutting your health care benefits too. So here's the deal. Support the lobbyist, make the corporations rich, exempt them from paying taxes, let them ruin your health, put you in the hospital, & then cut your health care benefits. How's that Tea tasting now?

By: Antisocialite on 3/31/11 at 9:38

Amy, I hate to be a Debbie Downer here, but what other 'tools' do you think government has to increase revenues besides increasing taxes?

This is an area where many American's are too myopic for their own good. We have a culture of people who want something for nothing, and no I'm not talking about those on welfare. I'm talking about the taxpayers, especially those who want improvements to city services, and lower taxes. I'm sorry, but you cannot have your cake and eat it too, especially in an economic climate such as this. I will sum it all up like this, if we are not looking at all possibilities, read tax increases and cuts to services, then the state is being done a great disservice. I hear a lot of rhetoric coming from the right about 'making sacrifices,' unfortunately the only ones being made to sacrifice are the poor, elderly, mentally handicapped, and teachers. I wonder how many the Christian conservatives who have been elected think Jesus would feel about that?

By: RTungsten on 3/31/11 at 1:44

Rather than penny per ounce, it should be a 2-3 cents per 8oz serving. Penny per ounce will add 50% to the cost and that won't fly, at least with the companies selling the drinks.

By: Maynard Landsdowne on 4/4/11 at 10:07

The glib Thomasson didn't mention that drinks are formulated to be addictive. He also didn't mention they are a factor in cancer and diabetes, no to mention malnutrition, a paradox in our overweight state. The fact that he compares soda's best customers to lazy, overfed animals says it all. Boycott the slop!!!

By: sunnyn73 on 7/11/13 at 5:36

There is nothing the American public won't blame on a) fast food and soft drinks b) video games c) global warming. I fully expect the events in Japan to be blamed on all three.