Marc Sherman: VT Beverage Tax a Bad Policy for Vermont

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March Sherman, vice chair of government relations for the Vermont Retial & Grocers Association and owner of Stowe Mercantile and The Boutique om Stowe has published a commentary on the Vermont Beverage Tax for VT Digger.

Thousands of Vermonters from all corners of the state representing small grocers, country stores, artisan beverage makers, and concerned citizens have joined to form the Stop the Vermont Beverage Tax Coalition because this policy is the wrong direction for our state. Vermont rejected a beverage tax in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Now, only a few weeks into 2015, some are pushing once again for new beverages taxes on Vermonters. The latest proposal calls for a $0.02 per ounce excise tax on beverages with added sugar that would be applied to the distributor and then passed on to grocers and retailers and ultimately to Vermonters. These beverages include soft drinks, iced teas, sports drinks, kombucha, and even local favorites like Rookie’s Root Beer and Vermont Sweetwater.

The Vermont Retail & Grocers Association, of which I am a member, is particularly concerned about this tax for a number of important reasons.

First, this is a hidden tax on consumers because it will be levied on distributors first and then passed on to consumers. Without getting too far into the weeds, what this means is that distributors will recoup the cost of this tax by increasing the cost of the products they distribute which could include non-sweetened beverages and grocery items. This proposal could lead to an increase in grocery costs for already struggling families.

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