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Sugar tax: A killer of jobs and choice

SANTA FE, N.M. — As president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), I have the privilege of representing 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses that together contribute $668 billion to our American economy every year. We also advocate on behalf of over 260 major U.S. corporations. We do this through our network of over 200 local chambers of commerce and business associations nationwide.

The USHCC opposes any tax that impedes economic growth and creates a difficult environment for small businesses. We especially disapprove of regressive taxes that hurt low-income communities because of an elitist view of what is “best” for such consumers. We believe that consumers should have the right to determine for themselves what is in their best interest.

We are disappointed to learn of a recent move by the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to align itself with a pro-tax political action committee that supports the beverage tax on Santa Fe residents. The USHCC does not support regressive taxes that hurt consumers and our small-business community.

We understand that Mayor Javier Gonzales is pushing a two-cent-per-ounce tax on beverages with sugar in the city, with the assumption that it will solve the city’s education funding problem. Translated into dollars and cents, this would add roughly $3 to a 12-pack of soda. The reality is that Santa Fe residents will likely be driving to Albuquerque or nearby pueblos to avoid paying this draconian tax. While we understand the complexities surrounding tight city budgets and the need to generate revenue, the reality is that taxing people’s habits as a way to deter behavior simply hasn’t proven successful.

If mayors were committed to the well-being of their residents, they should join in a partnership with the beverage industry to encourage healthy choices in beverage consumption. In addition, they could craft long-term plans that exceed the tenures of local mayors instead of short-term taxes that benefit their political careers.

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Santa Fe is not the first city to engage in these divisive taxes. Over the past few years, we’ve watched as city governments have shifted their strategies by imposing taxes on the least fortunate in an effort to raise more revenues. As recently as last year, Philadelphia imposed a 1.5-cent-per-ounce beverage tax on its residents and the results are not what its leaders had in mind. According to local news reports, one of the city’s largest beverage distributors is being forced to shed 20 percent of its workforce as a direct result. Furthermore, residents are flocking beyond the city’s borders to purchase their products.

It boils down to simple economics. In Santa Fe, the Coca-Cola bottling business, which has been around for almost 100 years could soon be a historic relic, leaving its employees without work. Santa Fe residents can still remember when Nambé moved its manufacturing to India and China. New Mexico has gradually recovered from the Great Recession. We fear a beverage tax will serve only to slow down the progress it has made since then.

As president and CEO of the USHCC, I urge Santa Fe residents to vote “NO” on this tax, and ask the mayor and council to find a way that doesn’t divide the community.

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