Coalition Slams N.Y. Gov.’s Bid to Tax Sugar-sweetened Beverages

New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, a coalition formed to oppose taxes on food and beverage products, has expressed its “disappointment” regarding New York Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to place a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages of 12 cents per 12-ounce can in the 2010-2011 Executive Budget. According to the group, which includes many of the Empire State’s grocery store operators, as well as convenience stores and industry associations, the tax would be 10 times higher on a 12-pack of nonalcoholic beverages than the state tax on a 12-pack of alcoholic beverages like beer. Paterson proposed the nondiet soft drink tax as part of an effort to close the state’s $7.4 billion budget deficit.

The coalition further argues that a lingering recession is a particularly bad economic climate in which to tax New Yorkers. Paterson attempted to add such a tax to his budget last year, but the proposal fizzled in the face of strong industry and consumer opposition. Referring to his current bid to impose such a tax, the group accused the governor of “once again … trying to fix his budget problems by taxing New Yorkers and putting thousands of instate jobs at risk.”

“New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet in this economy, and we shouldn’t bear the burden of fixing the governor’s budget problems,” said Nelson Eusebio, chairman of Flushing, N.Y.-based New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes. “Another tax will be detrimental to hardworking New York businesses and residents.”

The beverage industry currently provides thousands of manufacturing, distribution a and retail jobs in the state, totaling some $6.7 billion in wages, according to the coalition, adding that New York’s non-alcoholic beverage industry has a direct economic impact of $7 billion annually and supports another l $18 billion in economic activity.

The coalition’s more than 6,400 members include the National Supermarket Association; Gristedes; The Food Industry Alliance of New York State; the Grocery Manufacturers Association; The Coca-Cola Co.; Dan’s Supreme Supermarkets, Inc.; Key Food, Associated Supermarket; Bravo Supermarket; C-Town Supermarket; NSA Supermarket; Foodtown; and MET Food. Businesses and individuals interested in joining the group can visit

In other beverage news, Paterson’s budget proposal to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores was greeted with excitement by the Batavia, N.Y.-based New York Farm Bureau. According to the organization, “If passed, this idea would create 10 times the number of marketing outlets for New York’s noted farm wineries and add a much needed revenue stream to state coffers.”

Said New York Farm Bureau president Dean Norton, “This will give our wineries and grape-growing operations a huge new opportunity to expand, creating countless new jobs for the struggling Upstate economy.” He added that many other states permit the sale of wine in grocery stores, “including our major competitors in the wine industry like California and Washington state.”

Further, Norton said, “This proposal would help to level the playing field for New York’s farm wineries with regard to market access, but also satisfy considerable customer demand to purchase wine at the same time they buy groceries.”

Norton said his group would work with the state legislature during the budget-negotiation process to get the proposal implemented.
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