New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes Takes on Soda Hike

State proposing 18% increase on juice drinks, carbonated beverages

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

FLUSHING, N.Y. -- A coalition of concerned New Yorkers, including the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS), has formed New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, the primary aim of which will be to defeat the state's proposed 18% tax hike on juice drinks and soda.

Other business and citizen groups that have joined the coalition include The Business Council of New York State; Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Buffalo Inc.; the New York State Automatic Vending Association; the National Restaurant Association; the National [image-nocss] Supermarket Association; Gristedes; The Food Industry Alliance of New York State; the National Puerto Rican Coalition; the Can Manufacturers Institute; the New York State Restaurant Association; the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the American Council on Science & Health.

"We question why our customers who consume such beverages in moderation should be penalized because some of their neighbors consume too much," said James Calvin, president of NYACS. "And what product(s) containing sugar would be next in line for a tax surcharge?"

Beyond these philosophical objections, he said there are practical issues. "Older cash registers in smaller independent stores may be incapable of calculating a tax surcharge on top of the existing sales tax on the specified products. Plus, there are unanswered questions about how the tax would be applied at self-serve beverage fountains appearing in a growing number of convenience stores."

"If the goal is for the tax-inflated price to prompt consumers to choose a different beverage, keep in mind that the advertised price will exclude the tax, since sales tax is applied at the counter at the time of purchase. By that stage of the transaction, most consumers have already committed to buying the product," Calvin continued.

"A more troublesome concern is that the surcharge will promote tax avoidance. The difference in price between soda-selling Native American stores, which don't collect any state taxes, and our stores, which must collect all taxes under penalty of law, would give our customers another financial incentive to desert us in favor of tribal locations."

Nelson Eusebio, the chairperson of New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, said, "We've come together--hardworking individuals, struggling families and already burdened small businesses--to prevent the enactment of this unfair and misdirected tax that could cost our state over 6,000 jobs."

He added, "Our coalition understands that New Yorkers are already among the highest taxed people in the country. And we won't sit idly by while Albany tries to hit us with another 18% tax on beverages that New York families drink every day. This is a regressive tax that disproportionately targets middle and lower income New Yorkers and we won't be fooled by Albany trying to control our lifestyle by policing what we eat and drink."

This 18% tax will be in addition to the sales tax consumers already pay as well as the extra deposit cost. All of the new and expanded proposed taxes together that Governor David Paterson is proposing, including this new beverage tax, will add nearly $4,000 to the annual expenses of an average New York family and could lead to the loss of one in 10 jobs in New York, the group said, citing the The New York Assembly Ways & Means Committee staff.

Eusebio is issuing a call to all New Yorkers to reject the taxes on juices and other beverages New Yorkers enjoy every day. "In an economy like this, the last thing government should be doing is raising taxes. I have seen firsthand small supermarkets and neighborhood bodegas are boarding up their doors at an alarming rate. It's not fair to place the extra burden on us, and it's the wrong solution to our State's budget troubles," he said.