I've been in the grocery store business my whole life. When I was 10 years old, I sorted soda and beer bottles at my family's Tonawanda store for 50 cents an hour. Back then, a can of soda cost a nickel. In all these years running the Budwey stores, I thought I'd seen it all, until this new soda tax was proposed by Gov. David A. Paterson.
You know the story: New York State government's tax receipts are coming up short. So the politicians in Albany need a way out. They scoured the state for untapped sources of cash, and settled on New Yorkers who drink sports drinks, juice drinks, sodas and teas.
Paterson then rounded up the usual Albany insiders and unions to produce a slick $2.5 million ad campaign that claims only a few pennies tacked on the price of soda will cure childhood obesity. I'll get to the obesity argument, but first, what about those pennies?
It's more than a few the state is looking to collect. In fact, it would add 144 pennies onto the cost of every 12-pack.
How did they come up with $1.44? Simple: The governor and his allies are demanding one penny for every ounce of soda consumed. That's each 12-pack containing 12-ounce cans. (12 x 12 = 144.) That's nine times more than the state collects on a 12-pack of beer.
Even more drastic is that the price of a 2-liter bottle would increase 57 percent -- and that's 67 cents before you add sales tax and our bottle deposit fee. It's even worse for Country Time Pink Lemonade, a summertime favorite. That goes up 86 percent, or $2.56 per container.
In total, the governor says the state will rake in $1 billion per year from this new tax. That's $1 billion out of the pockets of every hardworking New Yorker -- and it won't be spent locally supporting jobs here in Western New York, but instead fund Albany's massive government.
So, how does a tax make kids healthier? It doesn't. A tax won't make anyone healthier, and it won't make our economy healthier either.
In fact, proponents of the tax readily admit that most of the new taxes would be funneled into the general fund that the state uses to pay its ongoing health care costs, which are the highest of any state in the country.
Claiming this tax has anything to do with childhood obesity is just a slick tactic to distract New Yorkers from the real problem: New York's runaway spending and the absence of any leadership in Albany to do anything about it.
Let's face it, this is a money grab. And it's intended to insulate Albany from the recession those of us in the real world are grappling with everyday. Enough is enough!
Frank Budwey is owner of family-owned Budwey Supermarkets with stores in North Tonawanda, Newfane and Buffalo.