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Vermont House Committee Reverses Vote on Sugar Tax

A Vermont house committee has reversed course.  After rejecting a penny-an-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages last week, the measure has now been approved.

The Vermont House Health Care Committee had defeated the measure on a 5-5 tie vote on Friday after a committee member, a physician,  abruptly left.  Vermont Digger, an independent online newspaper, quoted committee chair Democrat Mike Fisher saying “The bill is dead”.  But on Wednesday, the panel voted in two 7-4 tallies to advance the measure.

Vermont Grocers’ Association President Jim Harrison, an opponent, was surprised by the committee’s about-face.

The $24 million raised from the new tax would  be used for the transition from state-subsidized health insurance programs to insurance that must be purchased under health care exchanges.

The Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security has been a leading proponent of the tax.  Executive Director Peter Sterling believes the new vote is a sign that testimony supporting the measure is countering scare tactics by industry interests.

Committee member Progressive Representative Christopher Pearson explains that the bill was divided,  and while he voted for the sugar tax, he voted against its remaining provisions.

The tax on sugar sweetened beverages is opposed by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin.

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