New Beverage Tax Bill Heard

Dozens of people packed Capitol Conference Room 229 yesterday (February 9) to testify against a new tax on soft drinks. SB 1289 will increase the liquor tax and assess “a new sugary beverage fee,” which is just another name for a new tax. Testifiers from the food and beverage industry turned out and spoke against the new tax.

“The proposed tax on soft drinks will have a huge detrimental impact to the beverage industry producers, to the consumers of their products and to those businesses that supply raw materials and provide services. Hawaii’s businesses and groups can’t afford new taxes aimed at raising our grocery costs on sodas and other beverages…. singling out one product or industry for a new tax doesn’t make good business sense,” stated Larry Cundiff, President of Business Diagnostics in testimony submitted to the committee.

Several testifiers cited shrinking sales, loss of jobs, and additional tax burden placed upon businesses who are already subjected to the sweeping General Excise Tax and the bottle recycling tax.

Supporters of the measure cited the doubling of adult obesity as well as childhood obesity as reasons to support a new “sin” tax. When Senator Slom asked State Board of Health official Lola Irvin as to who was ultimately responsible for children’s health indicated that parents were, but still skirted around the question (see the video above).

In the end Health Committee Chair Josh Green deferred decision making on SB 1289 until next Monday, February 14. Senator Slom will be voting against this tax increase as he does on all tax increase bills.

Link to Testimony (PDF)

Testifiers at Health Committee Hearing
A full house of testifiers at the Senate Health Committee hearing for SB 1289, new sugary beverage tax.

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