MS lawmaker wants to tax sugary drinks - - Jackson, MS

MS lawmaker wants to tax sugary drinks

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

A bill in the state senate is taking aim at overly sweetened beverages sold in Mississippi. That would mean common drinks like sodas and the Southern favorite sweet tea would be hit with a tax.

"People have got to wake up and get on the sugar replacements," said Sen. Deborah Dawkins, a democrat from Pass Christian.

It's being pushed by Senator Dawkins who says the purpose is to return some of the profit to the state, which is too often left footing the bill for medical expenses because of health issues related to high calories and sugar. With nearly 25 percent of the state's population as diabetic, Dawkins says the state can't afford it.

"Our costs have to be passed on to someone else if we're not able to bare them and we won't be," Dawkins said.

Dawkins says she's open to compromise on just how much the tax should be, but in her bill, she suggests a two cents per ounce hike.

"Even if we had a one percent. That would help tremendously as a disincentive," Dawkins said.

Justin Wilson with the D.C. based nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom opposes the effort, calling it a misguided attempt to achieve healthier living.

"I think what this amounts to is social engineering, plain and simple," Wilson said. "It's going to force people to move to other caloric beverages like milk or beer."

Wilson says a beverage tax shouldn't be used to plug budget holes and doubts money raised from it would actually be used for health related initiatives.

"The tax code is supposed to be about raising revenue, not changing our daily lives," Wilson said.

Dawkins isn't surprised by the opposition and says a similar measure in New York was just as controversial

"Sometimes we have to do something to get the ball rolling. This is my way of getting the ball rolling," Dawkins said.

Since the bill is a tax proposal, it faces a deadline to be heard by the end of the month.

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