Connecticut Debates Sweetened Beverage Tax
As previously covered on this blog, a number of local jurisdictions throughout the U.S. have sought to implement a “soda tax”. (See our February 27, 2017 blog and November 15, 2016 blog.) Now Connecticut is considering taxing certain sweetened beverages. Connecticut H.B. 7314 was referred to the Joint Committee on Finance Revenue and Bonding on March 29, 2017 and the committee held a hearing on the legislation earlier this month.
The bill would impose a one cent per ounce tax at retail on sweetened beverages. A sweetened beverage is defined as prepackaged, carbonated or noncarbonated nonalcoholic beverage that contains an added caloric sweetener. Milk, nondairy creamers, 100% juices, infant formula and medical food would be exempted. The funds collected from the tax would be placed in a separate account and be used to fund early childhood education and outreach efforts aimed at reducing obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
The Hartford Business Journal reported that during the public hearing on the legislation, Republican committee members expressed concern that the money raised from the tax—estimated to be about $145 million annually—would not be spent on the intended programs. Others pointed out that about a third of the tax would be paid for by households that make less than $40,000 per year and that many people would purchase sugary beverages, along with other groceries, in neighboring states if the tax was implemented. Connecticut Voices for Children, Dr. David Katz (Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center and former Editor-in-Chief of the journal Childhood Obesity) and others who testified in favor of the legislation suggested that that tax would reduce soda consumption and, therefore, have health benefits.