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Vermont drink tax backers face setback

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont panel has withdrawn support for a proposed tax on sugary soft drinks that it approved two days earlier.

Members of the Vermont House Health Care Committee voted 5-5 Friday for H. 234, a bill that would impose a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks and use the money to pay for programs related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, the sponsor of the bill, is an obstetrician. 

Till and other H. 234 supporters want to use some of the $27 million in projected drink tax revenue to fill what they see as gaps in federal PPACA health insurance subsidy expansion funding.

Till also has argued that the tax could “substantially reduce the average 44 gallons a year of sugar-sweetened beverages” that the typical Vermont resident drinks each year.

The bill needed a majority vote, not just a tie, to advance in the Health Care Committee.

On Wednesday, members of the same panel voted 7-2, with two absences, to support the bill.

The House Appropriations Committee may still hold a hearing on the bill, and Till and other supporters said they’ll keep fighting for the bill there and in other legislative committees.