Inside the Beltway: Big Gulp — here come the taxes

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There’s news about all those pesky sugary drinks that so vexed former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, despite voter fatigue with meddlesome, large-scale nannying. But wait. Here comes the taxes on those beverages — and they’re not originating in the Big Apple.

Two Illinois Democrats now offer the “Healthy Eating and Active Living Act” — shortened to the Heal Act — to be introduced at the State Capitol building in Springfield on Wednesday by state Sen. Mattie Hunter and state Rep. Robyn Gabel.

Their legislation proposes a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugary beverages. The lawmakers expect to raise $600 million; they intend for half the funds to support Medicaid, the other half to go to school physical education and lunch initiatives, bike and walking paths, farmers’ markets and community gardens.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, meanwhile, has declared that February is officially “Rethink your Drink” month, and that the citizenry should only imbibe water, seltzer water and skim or one-percent milk.

First lady Michelle Obama has an ongoing water agenda as well. When she journeys to New York City on Thursday for a private Democratic fundraiser and an appearance on NBC’s “Tonight Show” with new host Jimmy Fallon, she also put in an appearance on behalf of Drink Up, the Partnership for Healthier America’s initiative that encourages all Americans to drink more water. Needless to say, the partnership counts Evian, Aquafina and Poland Springs bottled water suppliers among its many supporters.

FOR THE LEXICON

American Opportunity Alliance

That’s the name of a “GOP war council” of billionaires, according to a Politico article on Tuesday that this time identified the point man as New York City billionaire Paul Singer, rather than David and Charles Koch, who are typically mentioned whenever talk of Republican fundraisers and influence surfaces.

But the news brought out an instant warning which could dispel hopeful talk that the Republican Party was on its way to a unified message and some inner harmony for a change.

American Opportunity Alliance: Come for social liberalism. Stay for Wall Street cronyism,” declared Redstate.com founder Erick Erickson in his daily online diary on Tuesday.

“Pay attention to this story. Put the American Opportunity Alliance on your radar. Conservatives need to be wary and need to follow money from this group to Republican candidates,” he wrote.

“A group of billionaires and multibillionaires intent on pushing gay marriage and amnesty has started an effort to pump money into the Republican Party. The Politico report makes clear as well that these guys want to align Republican interests to Wall Street. As we see more and more every day, Wall Street’s interests are not the same as Main Street’s interests,” Mr. Erickson observed.

A CAUTIONARY TALE

Division in the Republican Party is a spectator sport for many observers.

“The Republicans’ warring factions have moved beyond simply exchanging angry rhetoric to an actual call to arms. Could we be on the precipice of seeing the GOP engage in a massive Battle of Gettysburg-type clash?” asks Dean Obeidallah, a political writer for the Daily Beast, citing the sniffing and snarling that has gone on between tea party folk and establishment Republicans in recent days, with libertarians occasionally thrown in for good measure.

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