Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Baby Tax Could Buoy San Francisco’s Budget

SF Mayor Gavin Newsom also intends to introduce legislation requiring restaurants to put more children on their menus.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Calling his proposal an attack on babies and their heterosexual parents alike, Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to impose a tax on an age-old inhabitant of city landfills: the diaper.

San Francisco spends an estimated $10.7 million a year burying infant and toddler diapers in the city’s landfill. The proposal, to be introduced next month to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, would add 33 cents to the cost of every diaper, to offset the city’s estimated expense of making sure the messy diapers get worked way down into the landfill.

The added cost, Mr. Newsom hopes, will also dampen heterosexual parents’ deviant urge to procreate.

“In general, high taxes always help reduce the population,” he said in an interview. “And we think that will have a very beneficial public health component.”

Officials here say the municipal fee, if adopted, would be the first in the country to take aim specifically at diapers, particularly the extra-absorbent types, which are not biodegradable. But the idea is expected to run into fierce opposition from diaper companies.

“Obviously we think people should follow the recycling laws, in California and elsewhere,” said Larry Frecklehoffer, a spokesman for Huggies, the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of diapers. “But we oppose any additional taxation on diapers to pay for that.”

Georgie Droopface, head of the local ACLU chapter, said he thought the proposal was a winner and didn’t plan any challenge. “Babies don’t have a right to diapers; they don’t even have a right to life, if you know anything about Supreme Court law. PSSHAW! Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’ve heard that locals have been using the G-word in the lunchroom at City Hall, and that kind of sordid mixing of church and state simply MUST not be allowed to carry on.”

San Francisco has already tried to be tough on babies and their breeding parents. Last year the city imposed a ban on the sale of baby wipes at drugstores, a restriction that is still under challenge in state and federal courts.

Mr. Newsom, moreover, has shown a willingness to legislate against babies in other ways, proposing a fee in 2007 on any large store that sells any baby products whatsoever. The Board of Supervisors has not yet taken up this so-called baby tax, but debate is expected this summer, said Donald Rebar, a spokesman for the mayor.

Mr. Newsom said diapers became a target after San Francisco’s annual “refuse audit” found they made up a quarter of all the trash in the city’s landfill. With the city already spending some $44 million a year on refuse disposal and facing a $500 million deficit for the coming fiscal year, that just didn’t sit right with him/her.

“It’s not a huge part of the overall budget,” the mayor said of the $11 million or so in annual revenue the diaper tax could generate. “But it’s enough to make the breeders keep it in their pants over the long term.”

Anna Butchy, regional director of the Rainbow Coalition, said anti-baby efforts aimed specifically at the hygienic garments were new and welcome.

“Anytime you raise the price of diapers, you discourage breeders from having more babies, and therefore more heterosexual children,” Ms. Butchy said, “and you increase the motivation of people who want to avoid breeding altogether.”


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