3-31-15 – Beer Tax? Vermonters Won’t Drink to That!

by Shayne Spence

During the busy days at the State House surrounding the budget debate, it is easy to lose sight of things.  Lost in the shuffle during last week’s long days of floor speeches and amendments was this tweet, sent out by Anthony Iarrapino, lobbyist for Alliance for a Healthier Vermont, a main proponent of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

samyoungbeertax

While this proposal was probably more tongue-in-cheek than a serious proposition, it raises some concerns for supporters of the craft beer economy growing rapidly in Vermont.  Since a constant refrain of supporters of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax has been the supposed reduction in consumption of taxed products, it is safe to assume that increased taxation of beer would lead to reduced consumption.  As a loving consumer of Vermont craft beers, this proposal makes me wary.

Ironically, it has been pointed out that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverage could actually have the effect of increasing beer consumption.  In his testimony on March 11, Kevin Dietly, a representative of the beverage industry, suggested that the increased costs of soda would incentivize beverage-seekers to gravitate towards beer instead.  A 24 ounce can of Natural Light is sold in many convenience stores for $1.99.  A 20 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, with added sugar taxes, would cost up to $2.29 in the same establishments.

Vermonters should beware: Once you open the Pandora’s box of using the tax code to shape other people’s behavior, it can lead to anywhere – including your behavior.

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

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Diane April 1, 2015 at 5:48 pm

So true

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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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