Gov. Paterson: Soda tax doesn't have pop, served its purpose

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MORRISVILLE, N.Y. - Gov. David A. Paterson admits one of his most talked-about tax proposals, an obesity tax on sugary drinks, is fizzling.

But he says it popped the right question.

In meeting with college students over his budget, Paterson told the young New Yorkers not to worry about his soda tax because the legislature won't go for it. But he says it has served its purpose of raising awareness of childhood obesity.

His proposal would put an 18 percent tax on soda and other sugary drinks containing less than 70 percent fruit juice. His analysis showed it would raise a projected $1 billion in revenue over two years and reduce use of sugary drinks by 5 percent.

"I don't think the legislature will pass it," Paterson told students at Morrisville State College, where he discussed higher education. "But often publicity is as important as legislation."

Paterson gave his first pessimistic view of the proposal's chances after a student challenged him on the "foolish tax on soda." Then Paterson said his point was to increase awareness for the high caloric content of foods consumed by children, who unlike adults aren't in a position to make their own choices. Paterson said one in four young people nationwide is obese, leading to childhood diabetes, teenage stroke and heart attacks in people under 25.

In January, a Quinnipiac University poll found 64 percent of registered voters opposed the fat tax; 32 percent favored the soda surcharge.

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