Impassioned Dentist Proposes Soda Tax To Gov

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Governor Scott Walker heard an impassioned plea from a dentist yesterday to increase the sales tax on soda to fund dental care for the poor.

Walker had just wrapped up his remarks to the Wisconsin Dental Association in Madison when Dr. Tom Dowling from Omro sprung to a microphone in the aisle to get a word with the Governor. Dowling is not a Walker critic – he is a fan. “I just want to thank you very much for balancing the budget,” he said. “Would you please go to Washington and show them how to do it?”

But Dowling had an urgent message for Walker. The state, he says, does not adequately reimburse dentists for Medicaid patients. It is so bad, Dowling said, that in his 30 years of dentistry, he has done more than $20 million worth of free dental work for Medicaid patients: “We don’t have to, but we choose to. And it’s not our responsibility: It’s your responsibility to get these people seen.”

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Dowling also had an uncomfortable request for Walker. He asked the Governor to raise the sales tax on a can of soda by two pennies to help pay for dental care.

“There’s no money out there, so you have to create a new way. And that is by – sorry, but you have got to tax people. You do that for cigarettes and smoking for cancer. You can do it for candy and soda.”

Walker did not directly address Dowling’s question on stage, but speaking to reporters afterward, he ruled out any kind of soda tax.

“I’ve said in general on any number of issues, I just don’t see new revenue as an option out there. I think people in general believe that the government has enough money. The question is where do we spend it.”

Walker says his budget will help dentists by devoting more state money to Medicaid. But the Dental Association says government covers only about a third of the cost of Medicaid patients right now. Dentists pay the rest.

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