If you have picked up the paper recently, you’ve probably noticed a full-page ad with the headline, “There’s no room in Vermont grocery carts for a beverage tax.” The ad goes on: Prices on sodas, juice drinks, sweetened teas, and sports drinks will increase and possibly “go up almost 50 percent.”
The initial, overpowering impression is that legislators in Montpelier are, once again, about to drop a new tax on Vermonters, this time for everything we pour into a glass.
The bill the ad refers to is, in fact, an excise tax on sweetened (i.e. “sweetener added”) beverages only, written in response to a concern nationwide over the correlation between overconsumption of high-fructose corn syrup and beet/cane sugars, and obesity with early onset Type 2 diabetes.
Revenues from the tax will support an ongoing program for treatment and prevention of those diseases, in the same way revenues from taxes on tobacco products and cigarettes support the state health care resources fund.
Milk, fruit juices, maple syrup, infant formula, honey and plain bottled water are exempt. Alcoholic beverages are already taxed and not affected.
Back to the ad — it’s subsidized by the American Beverage Association, a trade organization representing the U.S. industry whose members produce everything you see in the cornucopia of beverages below the fold. In 2010, the ABA spent close to $10 million lobbying against similar measures across the country.
High-fructose corn syrup and beet/cane sugars, richly subsidized by the federal government for many years, are what enable the members of the American Beverage Association to make and distribute their products so profitably.
Take a look at the bills as they stand and follow them as they move through the Legislature: H.234 and H.418. You can find them at www.leg.state.vt.us.
Read the bills yourself. Make up your own mind. Contact your legislators and communicate your support or opposition. Leave the histrionics to paid lobbyists.
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