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Plan to tax bottled water flummoxes

We have been down this road before.

Gov. Jay Inslee and the House of Representatives want to remove the sales tax exemption for bottled water. This is not closing a tax loophole, as proponents would like you to believe. Section 301 of House Bill 2038 would actually redefine “food” and “food ingredient” solely to exclude bottled water from the exemption. Which “food” item will next be redefined and excluded? Milk? Juice?

Washington consumers overwhelmingly oppose taxes on their food and beverages, including bottled water.  Look no further back than November 2010, when voters – through a ballot initiative – resoundingly rejected a bottled water sales tax implemented earlier that year.  So why are they at it again?  Bottled water is regulated as a packaged food product and as such is currently exempt from Washington’s sales tax.  Voters have already made it clear that it should stay that way because they don’t want their food taxed.

Taxes on food, including something as healthy and safe as bottled water, are regressive because they place a much higher spending burden on the people who can least afford it: working families, the poor and the elderly.  This tax will also take away the choice of the healthiest beverage on Earth as a replacement for sugary alternatives that already add to health issues such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.

Singling out bottled water from other food products for taxation will not provide a substantial or stable source of revenue for government funding.  But it will cost jobs and hurt the small bottled water companies in Washington that support their communities and contribute to the economic vitality of the state.

 Taxing bottled water would also establish an unfair and inconsistent source of revenue for government funding.  Let’s face it, once a tax is applied, sales of these products will diminish, and revenue estimates based on prior sales rarely take that into account.  A tax on bottled water would inevitably impact sales that would hurt retailers on the borders of Washington state and small businesses that would struggle to compete with larger establishments.

 Our elected officials need to listen to their bosses, the citizens of Washington.  We have already told you once: vote against any proposal that seeks to eliminate the existing sales tax exemption for bottled water. We need to let our governor and legislators know, if they continue trying to tax our food, then they will soon be on the unemployment line.

 As Washington citizens, it is our right and responsibility to call or write our governor and legislators to tell them again, “Stop taxing our food!”

Jim Connelly is the owner of Lodi Water Company in Chewelah.

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