Beer taxed criticized as part of Act 60 reform

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(Host) Vermont’s brewers and grocers are urging lawmakers not to include a sales tax on beer as part of a compromise Act 60 reform package. However the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee wants to keep the beer tax in the legislation.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) As the House Ways and Means Committee prepares to take a final vote on a new Act 60 reform plan, opponents of a new tax on beer are launching an all out effort to remove that tax from the overall package. The compromise plan includes an increase in the sales tax from 5% to 6 % and the plan also applies the sales tax to soda and beer.

Morgan Wolaver, the president of Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, says adding the sales tax to beer will make his products less competitive in the marketplace. Wolaver says his company will have to absorb the sales tax increase to remain competitive. He argues that this situation will have an impact on the number of employees he can hire:

(Wolaver) “With the reduced income, something has to give. I mean it’s already a tight market so it makes it difficult for me as a president of the company to provide the quality of life benefits to my employees – health insurance, which is has had double-digit increases last year, other benefit packages, maybe retirement type of profit sharing, less profits there.”

(Kinzel) Stowe Representative Dick Marron (R-Stowe), who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, is not sympathetic to the plight of the state’s brewers and grocers:

(Marron) “They don’t like a sales tax on beer and they don’t like increasing the excise tax on beer. It’s kind of a difficult thing but in my committee I asked someone recently, I said do we have a sales tax on children’s books? And the answer to that is, yes. Well if we have a sales tax on books I’m not sure why it’s such a problem to have a sales tax on beer.”

(Kinzel) Despite problems between the House and the Senate with several provisions of the compromise bill, Governor Jim Douglas is confident that the Legislature will pass an Act 60 reform plan this year:

(Douglas) “This will be a big accomplishment not only for our Legislature but for all Vermonters. I know the Ways and Means Committee is working very hard to get something out this week and I appreciate their efforts. The consensus that we’re working toward is fair simple in concept and incorporates elements of both the Senate and the House proposals.”

(Kinzel) The bill could be on the House floor for a vote by the end of next week.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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