Maryland to Tax Salt?

June 11, 2010

No. But it would not wholly surprise me if they were to. The Maryland salt tax rumor comes from an April Fool’s article this year that a few—after likely reading it after April Fool’s Day—took seriously. But really, can you blame them? There is little in the article that is very unlikely:

If a night out to dinner is in your plans in the near future, brace yourself. Your meal just became a bit more expensive.

A new salt tax in multiple local counties is using your taste buds to generate a bit of revenue.

Starting Wednesday, a 25-cent fee will be added to the check of each meal if a salt shaker is on the table.

While it likely won’t make any foodie happy, restaurant owners also are perplexed by the new tax.

“The salt tax makes no sense at all,” says Greg Hourigan, co-owner of Hard Times Cafe in Bethesda. “I mean we understand we are in a tough economy, things are hard right now, but it makes no sense in my mind.”

Hourgian is prepared to see his customers express a negative sentiment towards the tax.

There is nothing unbelievable about a proposed excise tax on an unhealthy product. The only astonishing line is where the revenue raising purpose of the tax is made explicit. This reminds me of the prophetic Onion article “Americans Demand Increased Governmental Protection From Selves” that appeared in 2003:

“The legislation, if approved, would establish a tax on sodas and other beverages with minimal nutritional value, and the money would be used to fund programs that address the growing epidemic of childhood obesity,” Andelman said. “If our own government doesn’t do something to make us get in better shape-or, for that matter, dress a little nicer-who will?”

Of course many take soda taxes seriously and some argue for the tax on exactly this point (and just this week Mankiw and Slate wrote on soda taxes). And of course a salt ban is still being talked about in New York. Just hope no Maryland legislators got any ideas last April Fool’s day.

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