Lawmakers in Salt Lake City are looking for ways to help fund a state school system strapped for cash.
Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, is drafting a bill that would place a statewide tax on carbonated beverages and sports drinks.
The exact details of the bill have yet to be released. However, Pitcher proposed a similar bill in 2011. In that version, the bill would have imposed a 1 percent sales tax on soda and would have generated an estimated $5.5 million a year for education. Other beverages — like milk, fruit juices and water — would not have been taxed in that version of the bill.
Chris Wilson, a music teacher in the Nebo School District, is in favor of the tax and said it would bring heath and educational benefits that are too sweet to ignore.
“An extra tax on carbonated drinks would lower soda consumption across the state and bring a financial bonus to education,” Wilson said. “I’m all for it.”
Cy Jones, a junior at Maple Mountain High School, and a self-proclaimed soda fanatic, said he was also in favor of the proposed tax.
“A tax can be inconvenient, but I think it is a good solution to solve the problem of funding in education,” Jones said. “I don’t mind paying a penny for every $1 of soda I buy if it means I have better teachers, nicer schools and better equipment.”
Opponents of the bill point to a 2009 census bureau study that suggests an inverse correlation between school spending and SAT scores.
The study said Utah was ranked dead last in school spending nationwide with an average of $5,216 spent per pupil. However, Utah students still managed to rank first nationally in SAT scores. Conversely, New York topped the list in school spending with an average of $13,703 per pupil, but was ranked second to last nationally in SAT scores.
David Van Komen, a freshman at BYU who recently graduated from Riverton High School in Riverton, said the reason Utah students perform well has less to do with spending and more to do with shared values.
“I think the general climate and environment of Utah helps promote active studying and the feeling of wanting to accomplish something,” Van Komen said. “I have also noticed most Utah students only take the ACT rather than the SAT. But those who do take the SAT score very high because they are either smart or want to go to a different state for college.”
Although he said money doesn’t really make a difference in test scores, Van Komen said he was still in favor of a soda tax.
“Public schools here in Utah are very underfunded and that tax would help a state education system that is impoverished and in absolute disarray,” Van Komen said.