Capitol Alert

California tax on candy proposed by Democratic lawmaker

Candy products are clutched in the hand of a Folsom High School student February 7, 2003, as she comes away from the campus outdoor snack bar.
Candy products are clutched in the hand of a Folsom High School student February 7, 2003, as she comes away from the campus outdoor snack bar. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia on Friday announced a plan to apply sales taxes on candy in California, an idea that was rejected at the ballot box in 1992.

Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, has already introduced legislation to lift taxes on feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads, arguing the fees burden women who have little choice in making those purchases.

In pushing for that bill, Garcia and allies have argued that California’s tax code already exempts many products, including yoga classes, farm equipment, medication – and candy. Now she wants to reimpose a sales tax on sweet treats and snack food.

“As we were making the case that this is something essential,” Garcia said of her feminine products bill, she saw the need to re-examine California’s tax code to “have a system that’s not going to be punishing people for something that’s essential, but still creates taxes so we can pay for services.”

Taxing candy will reduce obesity and generate nearly a billion dollars a year in revenue, Garcia argued. Because voters overwhelmingly voted to exempt candy and snack foods (and bottled water) from sales tax by passing Proposition 163 in 1992, Garcia’s measure is a constitutional amendment that would need to win a two-thirds vote in the Legislature and then pass muster with voters. Garcia said she is aiming for the 2018 ballot.

“As individuals we can make choices to eat this stuff, but we should not be encouraging something that the research shows is connected to childhood obesity, to diabetes, to dental decay – these are not essential and they should be taxed like other luxuries,” Garcia said, calling Proposition 163 “really predatory on poor people.”

Tax exemptions have occupied a significant chunk of the Legislature’s time lately. A bill exempting diapers from sales tax is advancing.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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