I am writing in support of the beverage tax proposed in the Legislature. I have three reasons for this position.
The first is that studies have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages have a negative impact on health and have been shown to be a major contributor to childhood obesity. The Rudd Center at Yale University has studied the tax issue and recommends that the per-ounce tax is the most productive in helping consumers make better choices and providing needed revenue for health initiatives, such as our own Catamount Health Care (http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/reports/Rudd_Policy_Brief_Sugar_Sweetened_Beverage_Taxes.pdf).
The second reason I am in favor of this tax is to level the playing field between healthy and unhealthy food products. One of the reasons the price of soda is so low is because of federal subsidies to corn producers. These subsidies should end or be provided to all farmers so prices can be competitive. Low-income Vermonters may choose unhealthy products because of their artificially low price but then suffer negative health effects. If these products were competitively priced, then choosing healthy alternatives would be an equal option.
The third reason I am in support of the tax is that I believe we should balance the needs of industry to make a profit with the needs of our community to live healthy and productive lives. My understanding is that the general manager of Coca-Cola of Northern New England testified in the Legislature that this tax would negatively impact his Colchester-based business. I believe he should take that concern to Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola, not the consumers here in Vermont. Mr. Kent received $26 million in compensation last year, according to USA Today. I don’t believe the proposed tax would prevent Coca-Cola or any other beverage company from continuing to do very well. It did not put the tobacco or alcohol industries out of business. I recognize that some of these issues come down to philosophical differences in the role taxation can play in balancing the needs of the community with the ability of industry to be profitable. I would ask everyone to do their own research before deciding whether to support the beverage tax.
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