Accelify Blog


March 10, 2010

Good Morning. This is Mayor Mike Bloomberg:

Albany has been i n the news a lot in recent days for distressing reasons. In the process, key issues have fallen off State government’s radar screen. But they need to be back on, and now. That includes closing a looming, $1.9 billion gap in funding for health care for the poor, and a $1.4 billion gap in State education aid that threatens big setbacks for our children’s schools.

Today, I’m urging Albany to take one simple step to avert this crisis: Setting a penny-per-ounce tax on heavily sweetened sodas and beverages, and dedicating the revenue to education and Medicaid. An extra 12 cents on a can of soda would raise nearly $1 billion, allowing us to keep community health services open and teachers in the classroom. And, at the same time, it would help us fight a major problem plaguing our children: obesity.

Over the past eight years, New York City has become a recognized leader in improving public health because we’ve focused on solutions that work: Reducing smoking, discouraging use of trans-fats, requiring calorie-labeling in restaurants, and working with food companies to reduce the amount of sodium in their products.

High sugar intake from drinking sodas and other sweetened drinks is another growing health problem. Think about this: Lots of people put a teaspoon or two of sugar in their coffee. But a 12-ounce can of soda averages 10 teaspoons of sugar. Over the past 30 years, our consumption of these drinks has nearly tripled and studies show that over the course of a year, for every increase of one can in a child’s daily consumption, his or her risk of obesity goes up by 60 percent. And over the long term, obesity increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other killers.

By making heavily sugared drinks just a little bit more expensive, we can make a major dent in obesity just as we’ve made a major dent in smoking by raising cigarette taxes. Today, compared to eight years ago, there are 350,000 fewer New Yorkers smoking. Our penny-per-ounce soda proposal would have a similar benefit. It should cut consumption of these unhealthy drinks by at least 10 percent. As with raising the cost of smoking, young people would benefit the most. And among adults, over the course of a year we could keep 150,000 people across New York State from becoming obese, including 60,000 in our city. That would prevent costly hospitalizations and medical procedures and save lives. No wonder medical professionals statewide back a soda tax.

These soda tax revenues should be dedicated to urgent community needs that challenge local governments across the state namely Medicaid and education. If we don’t act, the huge cut in State aid to schools in the governor’s proposed budget would translate into 8,500 fewer teachers in New York City this September. We’d also see painful cuts to the City’s public hospitals. Our suburban and rural neighbors are also looking at severe public health cuts, big teacher layoffs, or big new property tax bills. But a penny-per-ounce tax on sugared drinks would help avoid such harmful consequences.

In these tough economic times, easy fixes to our problems are hard to come by. But the soda tax is a fix that just makes sense. It would save lives. It would cut rising health care costs. And it would keep thousands of teachers and nurses where they belong: In the classrooms and clinics.