Senate Bill Would Tax Sugary Drinks

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Get ready to pay up to drink up. That's because a bill in the Mississippi Senate is taking aim at overly sweetened beverages sold in the state. 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. Debbie Dawkins.

Dawkins says the purpose is to return some of the profit to the state, which is 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 being 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 bear 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.

"I think what this amounts to is social engineering, plain and simple," said Jason Wilson, with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom, It opposes the effort, calling it a misguided attempt to achieve healthier living.

"It's going to force people to move to other caloric beverages like milk or beer," said Wilson.

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," said Wilson.

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," said Dawkins. "This is my way of getting the ball rolling."

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