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Creative Solutions for State Budget Shortfalls

March 14, 2009


Here is a somewhat “different” solution for addressing the budget shortfall crises that state governments around the USA are facing.

Utah state representative Craig Frank has suggested the possibility of slapping a tax on caffeine.

It seems that Frank was inspired by proposals for taxing addictive substances like cigarettes. So he figured why not tap another revenue stream by taxing caffeine, which supposedly can also be addictive.

Rep. Frank’s rationale is explained in a Salt Lake Tribune article:

“Some feel [the cigarette tax is] a tax on those who are addicted to a substance that frankly they enjoy [but] we say that’s a harmful thing to do. At the same time, the government is addicted to the fee revenues,” said Frank. “So in light of that, if we’re really going to find a revenue stream on something addictive, why not cold caffeine?”

Besides addiction, Frank suggests that there are other negative side effects of caffeine, as he “has seen research that caffeine can cause spontaneous abortion, psychological abnormalities and other disorders.”


Initially, Frank wanted to target only cold beverages that contain caffeine like soda, but now he wants to expand that “more broadly” to include other caffeinated substances.

If this idea ever becomes law, coffee and tea drinkers in Utah might not be too happy.

And even chocolate has some caffeine in it, albeit in small amounts. In fact, a British doctor has called for a tax on this sweet as part of the fight against obesity in the United Kingdom.

So maybe Utah is onto something with its possible Caffeine Tax.

It will be interesting to see if other states in the USA consider similar taxes on not only caffeine but whatever suits their fancy. The idea is to create revenue by taxing something that people do a lot of and is considered “bad” or “sinful.” 

Like sex, perhaps?

It could be only a matter of time.

After all, desperate times require desperate measures. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that 47 states in the USA are facing potential budget shortfalls and that 44 states anticipate budget deficits for  fiscal year 2010 and afterwards.

I’m just hoping that no one decides to tax air.

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