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Detroit Proposes Fat Tax

Consumer Affairs | May 9, 2005

It had to happen sooner or later: a fat tax. With concerns about obesity growing, and the independent film "Supersize Me" gaining near-cult status, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says now may be the time to put an extra tax on fast food.

The money would certainly come in handy. Detroit is grappling with a $300 million budget deficit and Kilpatrick believes a two percent fast food tax would help fill city coffers while making consumers think twice before downing so much unhealthy fast food.

Taxes on restaurant meals are nothing new. Many municipalities levy a "prepared meals tax" on top of state sales tax to supplement local tax revenue. But what Detroit is considering goes a step farther.

The National Restaurant Association, a Washington lobbying group for the restaurant industry, says this would be the first time a specific type of restaurant has been singled out for taxation. The tax would apply to any fast food restaurant product, even a cup of coffee.

Critics charge the proposed tax is unfair, since young people and the elderly -- two groups at the lower end of the economic scale -- tend to be the most frequent fast food customers. They point out it's highly unlikely it could ever be enacted, since it would require the state legislature to amend the tax law and would need the approval of Detroit voters, who may not be ready to give up their Big Macs and Whoppers.

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