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Most New Yorker's Don't Want 'Fat Tax' on Soda

posted on January 23, 2009

(AP) - Most New Yorkers are balking at Gov. David Paterson's proposal to impose a "fat tax" on sugary drinks, but an even larger majority wants millionaires to hand over a bigger share of their earnings to the tax collector, according to a new poll.

Quinnipiac University reported Thursday that 64% of registered voters oppose the governor's plan to help combat widespread obesity among children and others through an 18% tax on sugary drinks containing less than 70% real fruit juice. The poll shows 32% favor the soda surcharge.

"One month after Gov. David Paterson rolled out his fat tax proposal, and one week after he gave it a big push in his State of the State message, opposition is growing weightier instead of slimmer," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

That compares with 60% opposition and 37% support in a December survey. Quinnipiac said it surveyed 1,664 voters from Jan. 8-12 and the new poll has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

"One out of every four New Yorkers under 18 years of age is obese," Mr. Paterson said in his State of the State address last week. That blights their futures and creates a significant economic burden, he said, with New York spending $6.1 billion annually to treat obesity-related health problems.

Mr. Paterson's plan would ban trans fats in restaurants and junk food sales in schools. He would require chain restaurants statewide to post calorie content and establish a revolving loan fund to get healthy food markets in poor communities.

But the part of his plan that would add the surcharge on sugared drinks lacked poll support even among New York voters who prefer diet sodas, with 62% opposed and 35% in favor. Opposition was higher among those who drink sugared sodas, 72% against and 26% in favor.

Support for raising taxes on those with annual income more than $1 million a year stood at 80%, with 16% opposed. That drops to 73% support for higher taxes on incomes more than $500,000 a year, and 55% for incomes more than $250,000.

"We'd like to tax millionaires and even half-millionaires," Mr. Carroll said. "But the support begins to erode when we drop the high-tax level to $250,000, too close to home for many voters."

Mr. Paterson's 2009-2010 budget proposal would establish 88 new or higher fees or taxes, but he declined to embrace the Assembly Democrats' proposal to increase the income tax rate on New Yorkers with incomes $1 million or more a year.

The Quinnipiac survey found 53% of voters approve of the job Paterson is doing, with 25% opposed. They split 42-43% on his handling of the state budget, up from 40-46% last month.

Only 20% said they thought state lawmakers have the courage to make unpopular budget decisions, while 71% said they thought it would be "business as usual" in Albany.

Tags: food money New York news