Want a tax with that burger and fries?

April 30, 2008 6:14:00 PM PDT
Because of New Jersey's budget crunch, hospitals around the state are facing $300 million in funding cuts. To replace that lost money, it's been suggested that the state should consider a sin tax on fast food. As you can imagine that idea is giving some people indigestion.

"I think it's just another way our government wants to get in our pockets," Says one disgruntled taxpayer about the idea.

When you bite into that burger or shovel down the fries, you already pay a sales tax on that food in New Jersey.

But a suggestion has been made to Governor Jon Corzine that a sin tax could be imposed on fast food. It would be similar to the tax already added to cigarettes and alcohol.

"One of the staples to American society today is fast food, " said Michael Derrico of Spring Lake Heights, New Jersey. "Might as well get an extra tax, like you said it's just a sin tax."

The idea was brought up at a meeting between hospital executives and Governor Corzine.

It was suggested that a fast food tax could be a way to replace $143 million dollars the state is cutting in charity care alone. That's the money reimbursed to hospitals for treating the poor who don't have insurance. Betsy Ryan of the New Jersey Hospital Association says that money is crucial.

"We have to provide care but we're losing money literally on every charity care patient who walks through out doors," Ryan said. "And any business person knows you can't sustain operations that way."

Ryan said that in the last 18 months six hospitals have closed around the state and without the funding more will follow, creating a health care crisis.

But the idea of paying an additional tax on fast food? That's hard to swallow for some who say it would unfairly target the poor.

"I think a lot of people go to the dollar menu to feed their kids and stuff," said Carrie Shin of Trenton. "And now to tax it ? it's gonna go up more so they might not have that (choice)."

Sonyetta Roth of Morrisville, Pennsylvania says it like double dipping. "It doesn't matter if you're poor or not, " she said. "It already has taxes. Why are you gonna tax something over again? It's just not fair."

But some New Jersey residents such as Chris Williams of Cherry Hill think the idea should be considered. "New Jersey is in a terrible place (financially) so we have to find ways ? and I think fast food is a good idea," Williams said.