Candy Tax with Bittersweet Controversy

I was reading a news article today on something that is causing somewhat a stir between groups of people (what topic doesn’t, honestly?).  It was an article talking about taxing candy.  There are currently two states that has made taxing candy a law, and those states are Colorado and Washington.  Here is the article.

There are many controversial issues surrounding the taxing on candy.  The first controversy is the criteria of candy.  According to the article posted above and The Washington’s Department of Revenue:

“Candy is a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners combined with chocolate, fruits, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings and formed into bars, drops, or pieces. Candy does not require refrigeration. Candy does not include any preparation containing flour.

Flour is made from grain such as wheat, rice, corn, rye, oats, and barley.  Flour does not include flour substitutes, such as starch. Any product that lists flour as an ingredient on the nutritional facts label is not taxable as candy.”

The second controversy surrounding this tax (and the more important) is the use of the money coming from taxing these sugary treats.  Washington and other states are considering taxing candy in order to overcome their budget deficits.

Let’s address the first controversy, shall we?  The fine line between what is candy and what is not will be debated heavily.  Let’s take Kit Kat for example, which is made with flour.  According to the “criteria” of candy, Kit Kat would not be taxed.  Why?  Because it’s not considered as candy that can be taxed.  However, M&Ms would be taxed since the ingredients, as stated on the bag, does not contain flour.  How about Airheads?  As I’m looking at a bag of Airheads now, the ingredients do not specifically contain flour.  However, right below the ingredients, it specifically states Manufactured in a facility that processes wheat flour.” Should Airheads be taxed in this case then?

Well, after looking at the list of taxable and non-taxable candies according to Washington’s Department of Revenue, here is the status of Airheads (taken from http://dor.wa.gov/Docs/Pubs/ExciseTax/RetailSales_UseTax/CandyList.xls)

Airhead Pops Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads Singles Sour Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads Xtremes, Strawberry Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010
Airheads, Blue Raspberry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Checkstand Pack, Asst. Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Cherry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Green Apple Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Strawberry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Watermelon Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, White Mystery Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Xtremes Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010
Airheads, Xtremes Sour Belts Tray Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010

Sounds like a sticky situation indeed.  All Airheads Xtremes products are exempt from taxes.  After looking online on Airheads’ official website, it states that Xtremes contains wheat flour.  This would explain why some Airheads would be taxed, and why some are not.  I don’t think this is going to fly too well with the National Confectioners Association (Candy USA).

On to the second controversy:  Will the money gained from taxing candy actually be used to reduce the state’s budget deficit?  It’s no secret that many states believe in taxing products in order to gain financially.  It is worth it?  Let’s stick with Washington state again for this example.  According to numerous sources, including to The Sunshine Review and HearldNet, the state’s budget deficit is around $2.8 billion.  In my opinion, if this candy tax goes according to plan, and the amount of candy purchased by consumers stays at the same level, and the money is used to actually combat the state’s issues, then the candy tax is a good idea. If the money is put to other non useful purposes, then we have a problem, and the people will have a problem with the government.  The way Colorado and Washington plays out the implementation of the tax will be looked at by other state governments, trust me.

The candy tax could be served for purposes; one overt and one covert.  The overt purpose would be to reduce the state budget deficit.  What about the covert purpose, the purpose that is not known by the general public.  The covert purpose could be to limit the amount of candy consumed by children in order to promote a healthier way of living.  Remember how cigarettes were taxed to an oblivion?  Many people will argue that cigarettes were highly taxed in order to make people re-consider paying a high amount of money on them.  Could this be the same with candy?  Could candy be taxed to the point that children, or even adults, re-consider paying a certain amount for the sugary goodness?  I highly doubt it, considering the average price for candy such as a pack of Skittles or Starburst is still cheap.

I will be interested to see how this all plays out.  The new tax is supposed to take effect in Washington on June 1st, 2010 (tomorrow).  My state of Maryland is also trying to find ways to cut our huge budget deficit; I wonder if they’re paying attention.

Schools Cheating to Get Ahead?

I was watching TV a couple of days ago and I saw a story regarding an elementary school and cheating test scores.  After further investigation, the school was George Washington Elementary School located in Baltimore, Maryland (my hometown).  Here’s an excerpt of the story below (full story can be viewed here). 

A Baltimore elementary school principal’s professional license has been revoked after officials found widespread cheating on state tests at her school.Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Andres Alonso and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said the test tampering occurred in 2008 at George Washington Elementary School. 

The 18-month investigation included a review of hundreds of test booklets that revealed a “pattern of erasures changing incorrect answers to correct,” according to a release from the city school system. The tests were taken by students in grades 3, 4 and 5. 

Further down the article, the drastic change in test scores from one year to another is explained 

“The district said the probe was triggered by the dramatic shift in test results from 2004, when reading scores were at 47.6 percent and math scores were at 67.9, to 2007, when reading scores soared to 100 percent and math scores went up to 98.9 percent.” 

Since I live in Baltimore and I hear about the constant struggles of the Baltimore City school system, this piece of news deals a significant blow to a failing school system.  I personally don’t understand what can be gained from teachers, or better yet the administration, changing answers on a state exam.  There can be a point made that the school can gain financially by the strength of excellent test scores with the likes of better funding. 

However, how do the kids gain anything from this?  Most kids will think that their answers are correct and that they understand the material being presented to them.  This is unfortunately not the case.  I thought that the focus was on teaching children, even if they were to make mistakes; not giving children false hope by secretly changing answers. 

The investigation led to then-principal Susan Burgess being stripped of her professional license.  There is one SMALL problem: Burgess retired in the spring.  Should Burgess be held responsible for the actions of the school teachers who changed the scores?  In my opinion, I believe so.  As the leader of George Washington Elementary, or any school for the matter, you are responsible for making sure nothing like this occurs.  You are responsible for keeping your faculty in line to prevent a catastrophic event like this. 

I would find it very hard to believe that the principal didn’t know anything about this going on at the time, so the excuse of her possibly not knowing is nonsense.  At the same time, who else should be held accountable?  Teachers? School Board? Parents?  Blame could be pointed to a lot of areas. 

I haven’t done any research on this same type of story being reported in other schools or states, but I believe that there’s a possibility of this happening elsewhere.  I just hope that this is a small rate of this actually happening, for education sake.