Connecticut might become the first state to impose a special tax on candy under a bill proposed by Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, who hopes to curb childhood obesity by taxing sweets and soft drinks.
The legislature’s Committee on Children will schedule a public hearing on the bill, which would impose a new one cent per-ounce tax on sugary soft drinks and candy.
Candelaria said the tax would apply to high-sugar and high-calorie candies as well as soft drinks, both carbonated and uncarbonated. The new revenue would be divided evenly between municipal aid funds, a scholarship program, and efforts to reduce childhood obesity.
“My real concern is this big epidemic of childhood obesity in this state. We have not seen any deterrence. Children are still consuming a lot” of sodas and candy, he said.
No state currently imposes a special tax on candy and only four states, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, have an excise tax on sugary soft drinks, according to a report by the Office of Legislative Research.
According to TrackBill, both Hawaii (HI-SB1256) and Vermont (VT-HB24) also are considering legislation to levy a tax on sugary soft drinks in an effort to curb childhood obesity, and Hawaii also is considering a labeling requirement as well (HI-SB1270).
Connecticut is already one of several states that does not apply its sales tax exemption for groceries to soda or candy, according to Connecticut’s OLR report.
Candelaria is not the only lawmaker from the New Haven area to propose taxing sugary drinks. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro proposed a federal soda tax bill last year, according to the New Haven Register, but the bill was not passed.
Candelaria acknowledged the proposal would be a difficult sell in the state legislature as well. Although the Committee on Children will hear public testimony on the subject, its co-chairwoman, Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, said last week the panel had so far declined to draft the proposal into a committee-backed bill.
Even if it were to pass the legislature, the proposal is unlikely to receive a signature from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who pledged last year not to raise taxes.
“While we have made strides in making Connecticut healthier and want to continue on that trajectory, a soda or candy tax may not be the best approach,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy, said Monday.
Candelaria indicated he was willing to modify the bill and said he would be working with other lawmakers and the governors office in an effort to build support for it.
“I know it will be an uphill battle, no question about that, but if we really care about the health of our children we need to state having this conversation,” he said.