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MA business leaders call to end tax break on soda and candy

Posted by John McDonough  May 17, 2012 11:20 PM

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Here's something worthy of notice: 30 Massachusetts business leaders this week urged House and Senate leaders to include in their health care cost control legislation a provision to eliminate the exemption from food taxes for soda and candy. Here are the 30 names and their companies who were organized by the Alliance for Business Leadership.

  • Andrew Tarsy, President & Executive Director, The Alliance for Business Leadership
  • J.J. Bartlett, President, Fishing Partnership*
  • Robert Beal, Partner and President, The Beal Companies
  • Josh Boger, Founder & CEO (retired), Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Nicolas Boillot, CEO, HB Agency
  • Howard Brick, CEO & Director, MedPanel, LLC
  • Jeff Bussgang, General Partner, Flybridge Capital Partners
  • Geoff Chasin, President, New England Retail Express
  • Tom Clay, CEO, Xtalic Corporation
  • Bob Crowe, Partner, Nelson Mullins
  • Betsey Dalbeck, Owner/President, Fresh Tracks
  • Jeff Dorigan, Global Head, Professional Development Program, State Street Corporation
  • Phil Edmundson, Chairman & CEO, William Gallagher Associates
  • Israel Ganot, President, Co-Founder & CEO, Gazelle
  • Norm Gorin, Chairman & President, Instinct Health Sciences, Inc
  • Mark Herman, Vice President, Goldman Sachs
  • Diane Hessan, President & CEO, Communispace Corporation
  • Kip Hollister, Founder & CEO, Hollister Staffing
  • Trish Karter, Founder & Chief Deer, Dancing Deer Baking Company
  • Ed Krapels, CEO, Anbaric Transmission
  • Janet Kraus, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School
  • Charles Lord, Senior Project Manager, CQuest Capital LLC
  • Jack Manning, President & CEO, Boston Capital
  • George Matouk, President & CEO, John Matouk & Co., Inc
  • Linda Moulton, CEO , Ceralta Technologies
  • Mari Ryan, Founder & CEO, Advancing Wellness
  • Tedd Saunders, President, EcoLogical Solutions, Inc
  • David Schechter, Managing Partner, Perspective Global Management, LLC
  • Ron Shaich, Founder, Chairman & Co- CEO, Panera Bread Company
  • Bill Sullivan, CEO, Hub Healthcare Management Services

Here are some key parts of their letter to Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Bob DeLeo, and other key legislators:

"We implore government to join us in our commitment to prevention by ensuring that cost containment legislation addresses both how we pay for care and how we prevent chronic diseases. Ending the tax exemption on candy and soda is an important first step and one of many options to consider in order to adequately fund wellness and public health programs and to eliminate an incentive that encourages poor nutrition. Currently, the tax exemption on candy, soda and sugared drinks costs Massachusetts critical resources. By eliminating the exemption, the Commonwealth will realize $61.5 million in additional revenue, much of which could be dedicated toward improving public health and preventing chronic disease.

"The bottom line is that soda and candy do not constitute essential food items, and should not receive special tax treatment. One of only 12 states in the country to exempt soda and candy from taxation, we effectively subsidize products that research has established bear a direct link to obesity, an underlying cause of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. We can and must do better.

"Ultimately, we must address the full spectrum of reforms necessary to sustain universal health care, lessen the burden on business and improve the health of our people and economy. This goes beyond payment or rate reform. We must move the bulk of demand for health care down the continuum, away from tertiary to primary settings when appropriate. Improving the health of our citizens is the best way to do that, and public health education and prevention services are key to that effort."

One of the key leaders of this effort is Phil Edmundson of the insurance brokerage firm, William Gallagher Associates. Here's a quote from Phil:

"On the business side, many of us are running wellness programs and doing what we can to keep our workforce healthy. But we can't do it alone. It is critical that we have a dedicated funding source for disease prevention, and removing the tax exemption on candy and soda is a commonsense way to pay for public health programs."

Hey, House and Senate leaders -- what's the deal? Can you please explain why in 2012 it makes sense to provide a tax break for liquid and hard candy which have been linked by evidence as a major agent of obesity and chronic disease?  Especially when 38 other states don't provide this exemption? 

What is so hard about this?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

John E. McDonough is a professor of practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is the author of the book “Inside National Health Reform”, published in 2011 by More »

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