HARTFORD (AP) - Nearly three decades after a U.S. state last imposed a special tax on sugary drinks, Connecticut’s governor is pushing for one to help close a budget deficit - and bracing for a fight.
Taxes on soda and other sugar-loaded drinks have taken effect in recent years in several cities around the country, but lobbying from the beverage industry and its allies has been credited with helping to block statewide proposals that emerge annually in state legislatures around the country.
“The industry lobbying is going to be pretty ferocious. I don’t know if the legislature can stand up to it,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, who included 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in his budget proposal.
Connecticut is among several states likely to see debate renewed this year over taxes that advocates endorse as a way to reduce consumption of liquid calories blamed for contributing to health problems such as obesity and diabetes. Opponents argue the taxes hurt stores and supermarkets as well as beverage producers, while inflicting financial harm on consumers.
“The challenge for these taxes, whether it’s a state or a city, but typically a state, is they’re very unpopular with working families and small, local businesses,” said William Dermody Jr., vice president of media and public affairs for the American Beverage Association. “These people are vocal to their representatives that they dislike this tax.”
Statewide taxes on sugary drinks were proposed this year in states including New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and California, but the last state to impose any such tax was Arkansas, which adopted an excise tax on soft drinks in 1992.
Three other states have had sugary drink taxes on their books for decades - Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Dozens of other states apply sales tax on at least some soda purchases.
Revenue from the taxes is used for purposes ranging from a medical school in West Virginia to litter and recycling programs in Virginia and Tennessee.