Monday, June 22, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

So Nassau County Can Tax That Too!

First, it was a 2.5% tax on energy, as on your LIPA, National Grid, and heating oil bills.

Now, if Tom Suozzi has his way, and the Nassau County Legislature acquiesces, there will be a 2% tax on fast food.

Call it "Healthy Nassau," if you like, but when Long Islanders are struggling to put food on the table and keep the roof overhead, now's not the time to up the cost of already too expensive consumer staples -- like food.

Geez. First they try to tax us out of our homes. Then, its the food we put in our mouths.

What next, Tom, a tax on the air we breathe? [Sorry, you'll need to create a special district for that.]

Seriously, we, the hard pressed and overtaxed, need relief from the burdens of oppressive government, not more taxes, fees, and surcharges that eat away at whatever little disposable income we may have left at the end of the week.

And why a tax on fast food, Tom? Why not tax that cholesterol-producing steak at Peter Luger's, or impose a hefty surcharge on the energy gulped down by the owners of Nassau's McMansions?

Oh, we get it. If you tax the poor and the middle class, they may grumble a bit, but no matter. Tax the rich, and they may not have the money you'd like them to contribute to the campaign coffers.

The Democrats in the County Legislature need to say "enough," quashing the Suozzi fast food tax. [The GOP delegation is guaranteed to vote "no," not as a matter of conscience, but just to show up Suozzi and the Dems.]

And, while you're at it, repeal that local energy tax, as well.

If this loss of revenue means cutting the fat in county government -- a move that would truly lean us in the direction of a healthier Nassau -- or even shutting the county down for a time [hey, we're New Yorkers. A non-functioning government is all but passe.], then so be it.

This continual passing of the buck to taxpayers, ratepayers, and now, connoisseurs of Big Macs, has simply got to stop!
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From Newsday:
Nassau proposes 2 percent fast-food tax for next year

It's still just a proposal, but Nassau County is talking about taxing your Quarter Pounder or Whopper.

Anxious to find additional money to combat falling revenues during the economic downturn, the county included a 2 percent fast-food tax in its budget plans for next year.According to Nassau's multiyear budget plan submitted to a financial monitoring panel last month, a fast-food tax would bring in $11.8 million in 2010, when the county's budget gap is projected to be $72.3 million.However, such a tax would require state authorization. County officials acknowledge it is unlikely the State Legislature will approve the tax, noting Nassau can't even get this year's financial requests, including a cigarette tax, through Albany's current gridlock.

The proposed fast-food tax would be part of County Executive Thomas Suozzi's "Healthy Nassau" initiative, to encourage people to eat healthier, just as his proposed cigarette tax is intended to reduce smoking, officials said.

"In the best of all possible worlds it's better to try to discourage unhealthy behavior instead of relying on property taxes," said Suozzi, who added he'd rather see a cigarette tax first. "We're just trying to figure out the way to solve the problems without wrecking the county and without raising property taxes."

Asked whether even healthy foods sold at fast-food restaurants - such as salads - would be caught by the proposal, Suozzi's spokesman Bruce Nyman said it was too early to be that specific. "No one has taken it that far," he said of the plan.

Deputy County Executive Thomas Stokes, who is putting together next year's budget, said the fast-food tax plan would impose an additional 2 percent tax on top of the 8.625 percent sales tax already charged on meals from McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and similar restaurants. The tax would not apply to independent pizza places or Chinese food restaurants.

He defines fast-food restaurant as "any franchised outlet of a restaurant chain that derives 30 percent or more of its revenues from the sale of prepared, ready-to-eat food, and which serves one or more menu items that contain more than 0.5 grams of trans fat or 5 grams of saturated fat per serving."

Stokes said Pennsylvania already has a fast-food tax. Officials in other parts of the country have considered similar taxes, and Oakland, Calif., three years ago assessed fees on fast-food restaurants to help pay for the cleanup of their litter.

But while other governments may see fast food as a revenue generator, Suffolk does not. County Executive Steve Levy "has no intention of proposing or advocating such a tax," a spokesman said.

In Nassau, the legislature's budget review office reported that a fast-food tax would bring half the $12 million projected and warned, "Many view fast-food taxes as regressive since they disproportionately impact some of the lowest income groups."

Nationwide, the average American eats three meals a week from fast-food establishments, according to research reported by ABC News last year.

"We absolutely positively oppose" the 2 percent tax, said Rick Sampson, of the The New York State Restaurant Association. "Why should those consumers who purchase fast food be penalized?"

Dunkin' Brands, owner of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, also opposes the tax. "We understand that many state and local governments are facing budget deficits due to the tough economic environment, but imposing taxes on consumers and small-business owners is not the way to solve these problems," a spokeswoman said.

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

1 comment:

  1. Let’s tell it like it is: this “Healthy Nassau” idea is nothing more than a convenient way to raise even more taxes. It’s a game: politicians know that when they propose “sin” taxes of any kind, it has a disarming effect on the opposition. After all, if you’re against this new tax on Big Macs (or cigarettes, or liquor, or Lord knows what else) aren’t you then in favor of the horrible, evil addictive substance that your government is valiantly trying to limit?

    Meantime, I know of no serious argument that can be made to the effect that someone who is seriously addicted to something is going to change their behavior simply because the price is going up. Instead, they’ll simply find that money from someplace else in the household budget or elsewhere. Any junkie on the street will tell you that. And by the way, if your kids are driving you nuts because they simply have to get to MacDonald’s what are you going to do? Tell them you’re not going to take them there because “Tom Suozzi thinks it’s a bad idea?” Yeah, that’ll work.

    What bothers me the most in all this is that the County has not done nearly enough to lower their cost base. As far as I’m concerned the same can be said for the Town of Hempstead as well. Labor costs continue to be too high, not enough is being done to control administrative costs and budgets continue to be characterized by expenses that simply cannot be sustained in a difficult economic environment.

    Sure, they’re have been some token labor givebacks – a few less holidays, for example. But ask yourself this: there are something like 16,000,000 people without jobs in this country (and that’s just the “official” total), how many headcount reductions have we seen implemented by Nassau? Or Hempstead? Or any other local municipality?

    It’s not that anyone should want to see jobs lost. But the kind of sacrifice people are making in the private sector – in the form of lost jobs, curtailed or more expensive health benefits, having to do without – are not being shared commensurately in the public sector, where the answer too often is to simply raise taxes. Sorry, but most people don’t have the option to get more money from their employer at will, or if you’ve lost your job, get a richer unemployment benefit.

    Bottom line: until the County starts getting serious about cutting its cost base, broaching the idea of new or increased taxes to be imposed on people who are already overburdened as it is simply unacceptable.