Keep Food Legal Submits Testimony to Vermont Legislature in Opposition to Potential Soda Tax

Vermont's state houseYesterday, in advance of today's hearing by the Vermont legislature's House Committee on Health Care on the potential levy of a soda tax in the state, Keep Food Legal submitted written testimony in opposition to any such proposal.

In our remarks, we argue that such a tax lacks support in the scientific literature, would have negative unintended consequences for Vermonters, and would infringe on consumer choice. And we applauded governor Peter Shumlin for his longstanding opposition to soda taxes.

After going into detail about the various flaws in the scientific arguments behind a soda tax, we urged Vermont legislators to reject such a tax because it

would take millions from struggling Vermont small businesses and consumers and hand it over to the state. Even its supporters admit that the proposed Vermont beverage tax is in many ways a revenue grab. For example, the Alliance for a Healthier Vermont claims a penny-per-ounce tax in Vermont “would raise $27 million/yr (sic)” and thus help cover the “state general fund budget deficit[.]”

A beverage tax would also harm the stellar national image of Vermont—a state known throughout the country for sweet offerings like pure maple syrup and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. And if Vermont were to tax sugar-sweetened drinks that come mainly from out of state, what’s to stop other states from imposing similarly unfair taxes on real maple syrup?

Instead of cracking down on beverage makers and consumer choice, Vermont voters should urge Sen. Sanders, Sen. Leahy, and Rep. Welch to push for the federal government to stop wasting taxpayer money by subsidizing sugar and corn (which is used to make high fructose corn syrup, also known as corn sugar). Doing so would save Vermonters millions of dollars every year while getting government out of the costly,  inane, and self-defeating role of both promoting sugar consumption (through taxpayer subsidies) and penalizing sugar consumption (through taxes on sweetened beverages).

Read our complete comments here. At 7:10 a.m. on Monday morning, Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin will appear as a guest on WVMT radio--NewsTalk 620 AM--to discuss our opposition to the potential soda tax. You can listen live here.