Tax soda, but let's skip new state programs

Friday, January 6, 2012

Remove sales tax-exempt status from soda and power drinks? Nothing wrong with that idea.

Use the $20-30 million in tax revenue to set up a new government program? Maybe not so much a great idea.

Sen. Bill Avery's LB753 would begin levying the sales tax and divert 90 percent of it into a new state Department of Education Obesity Prevention Fund and 10 percent to a state Health and Human Services Obesity Prevention fund.

The bill would use the first $100,000 to create a state database to "monitor student obesity and fitness."

The rest would go to school districts to assess student health, weight and fitness, increase physical education and physical activity, improve school meal programs, coordinate school health programs and support wellness coordinators.

The HHS program would encourage healthy eating habits and physical activity for children in child care programs.

The bill defines soft drinks as "nonalcoholic beverages that contain natural or artificial sweeteners" and excludes beverages that contain milk or milk products or 100 percent vegetable or fruit juice.

We'll leave to the dietitians arguments over the relative health damage from various types of sugar, but we suspect 100 percent fruit sugar is only marginally less healthy than corn syrup.

But rather than setting up a new state program that would probably do more to provide salaries for those who administer the program than actual good for children, why not just channel the extra tax income into existing programs already doing the same work, such as health departments, state aid to education, the HHS and Medicaid?

New state programs are rarely worth the money they cost.

There should be little question about LB786, introduced by State Sen. Mark Christensen on Thursday.

The bill changes state law covering cities governed by the city manager system -- like McCook -- to read that any council member convicted of a felony, or other public offense violating the oath of office, while in office shall forfeit such office.

The bill would be a quick fix of the situation that recently forced two McCook City Council members out of office for offenses involving disturbing the peace and harboring a potentially dangerous dog.

We have a hard time believing there were no other members of other city councils who had traffic tickets or other minor offenses while in office.

Let's hope LB786 passes quickly.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: