MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont House committee voted Wednesday to advance H. 234, a bill calling for the state to impose a penny-an-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
Members of the House Health Care Committee voted 7-2, with two members absent, for H. 234.
If implemented as written, the bill could raise about $27 million to support state health programs, supporters say. Supporters say the bill will also discourage consumption of products that are big contributors to obesity.
“We have an obesity epidemic and the scientific data is clear that sugar-sweetened beverages have a unique place in contributing to this epidemic,” said Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, a doctor and member of the Health Care Committee.
He said reliable studies have shown the tax would “substantially reduce the average 44 gallons a year of sugar-sweetened beverages we drink in Vermont.”
The measure faces an uncertain future. Gov. Peter Shumlin has gone on record opposing the tax, saying it would send shoppers to neighboring states. That argument is being pushed hard by retailers and a beverage industry group that has been buying full-page newspaper ads and has launched a full-court press lobbying effort to block the tax.
“We don’t believe we should be singled out as an industry and a heavy tax placed on our products,” said David LaRose, a manager with the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Northern New England.