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Get ready for a state stealth tax on your soda
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They don't get it, do they?

Gas is heading toward $5 a gallon and funding for basic government services is drying up. So what do politicians do? They advance "specialty taxes" aimed at pet projects.

The latest is by Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel. He is pushing a 1 cent per ounce tax from distributors on all beverages containing sugar or high-fructose. Monning's noble target is slaying childhood obesity.

The tax would generate an estimated $1.7 billion annually with 85 percent returned to the counties on a per capita basis to pay for their education and children's health programs. That's roughly $233 a year per kid.

Sounds great doesn't it? There are strings attached. First the state skims 15 percent off the top presumably to help fund the ever expanding state bureaucracy to oversee yet another special tax and to develop even more strings for the money before school districts and counties can put it to use. Of the balance, 61 percent goes directly to the classrooms, 21 percent for PE and health lunch programs, and 18 percent for after-school programs and local endeavors such as youth sports programs.

These are all good things, right? True but here's the rest of the story. Remember the last cigarette tax that was to fund specific programs to combat smoking? The state is forced to use scarce revenue because it was mandated by yet another pet project tax bill to fund anti-smoking advertising and the bureaucratic staff that supports such an endeavor. California has a $28 billion deficit and is slashing health care services to the bone and beyond yet the state is paying for Super Bowl commercial time for it anti-smoking campaign.

Does it make sense to divert 21 percent of a soda tax is if is implemented to fund specific programs such as PE and healthy lunch efforts if a local school can't even cover the cost of classroom teachers? Apparently Monning who hails from the wealthy seaside enclave of Carmel that inspired Thomas Kincaid thinks so.

And why should Carmel get the same cut per capita as say Ceres from a soda tax? A study published last month claims Valley children and teens are the undisputed guzzlers in California when it comes to soda.

People who are poor tend to buy soda and not premium wines. So every time a low-income person buys a 16-ounce soda they will be paying 16 cents in additional taxes that will be collapsed in the cost per bottle. And since Stanislaus County apparently drinks one heck of a lot more fructose drinks that they do in Carmel, we will be subsidizing Carmel's public schools since the tax is proposed for distribution statewide on a per capita basis instead of a point of sale basis.

Such unintended consequences are the direct result of so-called sin taxes.

Studies show the poor and low incomes smoke the most. So who pays the most cigarette taxes? The poor do. What's wrong with straight forward consumption taxes that treat everyone equally whether they can afford a $1.49 bottle of Pepsi or a $300 bottle of wine? Better yet, what about a penny per ounce tax on wine that is distributed to help pay for alcohol-related expenses society incurs?

Let's see how Monning's constituents would react to such a tax.

The problem with special taxes is they never go away and become stealth taxes that we don't realize exist because it doesn't show up on a sales receipt as sales tax or deducted from our paychecks as income tax or taken as part of our mortgage payment in the form of property taxes.

The irony is politicians like Monning routinely bemoan the fact the public tied their collective ability to raise property taxes at well by passing Propsition13. Yet almost every tax measure that state politicians push these days are for special projects that effectively tie up how taxes can be spent. Not much difference.

I have never smoked and haven't consumed soda or fructose-based drinks now for over three years so the tax wouldn't impact me, right? That is absolutely wrong.

Politicians are like lions stalking a herd. They look for the weakest group of taxpayers that few show empathy for such as smokers or soda drinkers - and then work to cut them away from the herd.

Eventually they will feast on their victims until there is nothing left. Then they will come after you.