Under a $34.8 billion state budget proposal set forth on Wednesday by Governor Deval Patrick for fiscal 2014, the top elected official called for the repeal of the sales tax exemption on things like candy and sodas, and recommended raising the excise tax on cigarettes by $1, putting it at $3.51 per pack.
Ditching the exemption would make candy and soda subject to the state’s 6.25% sales tax. However, Patrick’s budget plan also called for lowering the state sales tax.
The move would be just a small portion of Patrick’s overall budget proposal, which he called a “growth budget,” that focuses on investments in education and transportation to keep the economy growing and “strengthen our Commonwealth in the long-term.”
Last year, Patrick tried a similar move in trying to eliminate the tax exemption on “non-essential” foods like soda and candy, when he presented his fiscal 2013 budget, but nothing changed in the New Year.
Officials from the Massachusetts Medical Society supported the idea at the time, saying that adding the sales tax to the sugary items would raise $50 to $60 million in annual revenue, “which could be targeted at obesity prevention programs.”
The American Heart Association recommends most adults take in no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. An average can of soda contains 45-grams of the sweet substance, however.
A poll conducted in May by the coalition showed that a majority of Massachusetts voters would support forking over the extra cash for the food items in order to put it back into the local economy in beneficial ways.
But the group said last year that elected officials have failed to push legislation through, despite Patrick’s recommendations, and shot down similar proposals in the last three years.
Beyond his nutritional tax sentiment, Patrick’s budget would help keep the MBTA open later, past 1 a.m. on weekends, if the proper funds were siphoned towards the state’s crippled transportation infrastructure.