BY JIM DOOLEY – Steep new tax increases on alcoholic and sugared beverages proposed by the Abercrombie administration would cost jobs and unfairly impact low and middle income consumers, opponents testified at a Senate committee today.
Representatives of the Health and Tax Departments told members of the Health Committee the measure would have public health benefits by reducing consumption of both alcohol and sugary drinks, the latter a major contributor to childhood obesity.
But they also acknowledged the measure is aimed at incrasing tax revenues at a time of dire financial need for the state.
An official of the American Beverage Association countered by saying higher taxes “don’t make people healthier.”
The proposed bill would impose 50 per cent tax hikes on alcohol and create a new fee on all sugared beverages sold in Hawaii.
If passed, the taxes on beer sold here would be 33 per cent higher than in any other state, said Tim Lyons of Anheuser Busch, maker and distributor of Budweiser beer.
He estimated that the new tariff would reduce demand for the product and lead to job cutbacks at the company.
The tax would mean “$17 million less in retail sales … all for a gain of $13 million in tax revenue,” Lyons said.
Members of the families that own Hawaii Sun Products and Waialua Soda Company testified that the new sugar tax would have serious economic consequences for their firms.
Testifying for the measure were representatives of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies and the American Heart Association.
Pepsi Cola appeared in force at the hearing, with some of the company’s 300-plus local employees in attendance to show opposition to the measure.