An Idaho Soft Drink Bottlers Association lobbyist has declared war on a proposal to tax wholesalers about 1 cent per 12-ounce can of soda pop to finance a statewide community college system.

"We obviously are going to oppose this kind of legislation and oppose it aggressively," Tim Brennan said Friday.Brennan, who also is president of the Idaho Retailers Association, told the Legislative Council Committee on Community Colleges that the businesses he represents support education.

But he said a carbonated beverage tax that would bring in an estimated $5 million a year would be expensive to collect while unfairly targeting a single segment of a competitive industry.

"Why not tax Hershey candy and not any other kind of candy?" Brennan asked. "You could pick out any number of items in a supermarket and put a tax on it."

He said he was successful in quashing similar legislative proposals in 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1990. And even for a cause as good as community colleges, Brennan said, raising taxes would be a hard sell for lawmakers while the state has a budget surplus.

But Rep. Doug Jones, R-Filer, the committee's co-chairman, said it could be seen as a luxury tax or even a user fee paying for the education of young people who are the biggest consumers of soda pop.

"Soda pop is something that is not essential in your diet. Some people may think so, but it certainly is not needed for nutritional value," Jones said. "I think if you target it for education it may be an acceptable source."

The interim committee was named after the 1990 session of the Legislature to consider development of a statewide community college system supported by a broader funding base. Members earlier considered proposing a statewide property tax before settling on a carbonated beverage tax as a more politically palatable alternative. It would impose a tax on wholesalers for soda pop by the ounce and beverage syrup at 75 cents per gallon.