You may have read an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that quoted an activist as saying recent proposals in Illinois and Vermont show momentum is building for raising taxes on beverages.
But the examples given tell a different story. One is in Illinois. However, in that state no legislation was assigned to a committee, no hearing took place, and no vote was held.
In Vermont, an excise tax on beverages was abandoned after nearly 15,000 Vermonters and more than 200 small businesses joined a coalition to stop the tax. The Vermont Legislature instead passed a package of tax hikes that included removing the sales tax exemption on a range of products, including both diet and regular soft drinks. So soft drinks were taxed no differently than all other foods and beverages.
Over the past several years, more than 30 states and cities across the country have proposed or introduced beverage taxes and all have failed. The only one that passed was in Berkeley, Calif., a college town that has never seen a tax it didn’t like.
Soda taxes are deeply unpopular with the public. There is no momentum toward their passage. Lawmakers sometimes try but they run into a storm of protest from their constituents and back off. That’s because Americans don’t like prices raised artificially on common grocery items like beverages. Polls by both the Associated Press and Harris Interactive bear that out.
So next time you hear pro-soda tax activists saying the tide is turning in their favor, remind them that the people have the final say and they have spoken loudly on this issue: Stay out of our grocery carts.