4-7-15 – More Evidence Sweetened Beverage Tax is Just the Beginning

by Shayne Spence and Rob Roper

In a series of op-eds and blog posts about the proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax, we at the Ethan Allen Institute have predicted that the institution of such a tax is only just the beginning.  In an op-ed from March 12, 2015, titled “2 Cents an Ounce is Just the Beginning”, Shayne Spence took a look at the history of the tobacco tax and made the case that the proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax would be expanded and increased many times over in order to meet Montpelier’s insatiable hunger for spending.  On April 3, 2015, Rob Roper wrote a piece called “The Camel’s Nose Under the Tent”, arguing that the revised half-cent sugar-sweetened beverage tax would certainly increase.  Ironically, the proposed tax is now paired with another increase in tobacco taxes, which were just increased last year.

Those words have since proven to be prophetic.  When the tax was finally approved by the Ways and Means Committee on April Fool’s Day (the irony of this is not lost on us), committee Chair Janet Ancel (D-Calais) was quoted as saying “When you look at tobacco taxes, we started much lower and over a period of years it actually changed the culture about smoking.  So you start where you can start.  I would like to see it higher, but I’m a realist, and this is what we were able to get.”

That sentiment is shared by the folks who have been lobbying throughout the session for a sugar-sweetened beverage tax.  In an email sent out to supporters, American Heart Association Government Relations Director Tina Zuk said of the accepted half-cent tax, “While not the best option, this gets our foot in the door for improvement and the tax is still moving…We are strategizing further but are hoping to bump up the SSB and tobacco tax amounts in the Senate…We’ve come a long way.  I’m confident we can go further.”

One has to wonder, what amount would be enough for proponents of this tax?  Will it have to increase by over 600%, like the tobacco tax has since its inception?  Or will even that not be enough, as the tobacco tax continues to increase in what appears to be an annual ritual at this point.  It’s impossible to tell for sure, but one thing is certain; as long as Montpelier’s mentality is “spend first, raise money later” their desire for more and higher taxes will never be satisfied.

Rob Roper is the President of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Shayne Spence is the Outreach and Development Coordinator of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Fortner April 7, 2015 at 8:20 pm

That “Progressives” operate this way is true not just for taxes and “fees,” but in all areas of legislation and regulation. They have learned the lesson that if you come in with something new in a manner that is obviously oppressive and/or conduct-impacting, you will get serious resistance. If, however, you start small, most of the populace will either not know about it, or will glance and figure, “No problem. It doesn’t affect me.”

Which is why the new legislation concerning firearms is so problematic. Putting aside whether there is a “problem” which this effectively “addresses,” most citizens will look at it and say, “hey, it doesn’t affect my ownership/use of firearms, so I don’t care.” That opens the door to incremental encroachment on rights. (“I don’t care if they ban 50 BMGs, I only shoot a 12 gauge;” “who cares if high capacity magazines are banned, I only shoot revolvers;” “it doesn’t bother me if black rifles are restricted; I just enjoy my .22 Ruger.”) Then, at the point where it might matter to a larger group, the momentum is almost impossible to resist.


Alex Knight April 7, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Joe Fortner, you are spot-on. That’s their conniving Marxist game, every time. Which is why I have long contended now that government MUST END. We cannot afford to keep playing a game that ultimately, they will win:




jim bulmer April 10, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Never fails. Once these SOBs get their camel in the tent, they smell blood and milk us dry. Who knows what’s next.


John McClaughry April 10, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Don’t forget target creep.
The tax to deter sugar consumption is now proposed to extend to diet soda.


William G Russell April 10, 2015 at 11:23 pm

I wonder,when do I lose my chocolate Birthday Cake.?


Paul Hudson April 11, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Hi Rob, We are seeing VT close ranks with Mayor Bloomberg. If that doesn’t scare you nothing will.
Janet Ancel is a very fine attorney and she chairs a vital committee. But Vermonters must now be more rigorous when their Representatives and Senators are campaigning to secure their on the record pledge of Montpelier action. Their is a geographic amnesia which sets in on these good folks as they go from Bennington, Brattleboro, Springfield, St. J. or Grand Isle to the Capitol.
EAI could do a major service to the VT voters by recording the commitments of the lawmakers, and then reporting their actual votes. Accountability to the constituents may rise again. It certainly is on sabbatical now
Paul F. Hudson


Doug Richmond, Underhill April 13, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Remember; if not for gross SPENDING, taxes would be easy and reasonable.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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