Showdown Brewing in Maine Over Whether to Repeal Beverage Tax

Posted to findingDulcinea by Emily Coakley

In November, Maine residents will be asked whether they want to repeal new taxes on beverages that are going to be used to pay for the state’s universal health care program.

The Kennebec Morning Sentinel explains that in April, Maine’s legislature voted for a bill that “adds taxes to soda, beer, wine and flavored water. The taxes vary by product, but would add 11 cents to a liter bottle of soda, 16 cents to a six-pack of beer and 7 cents to a bottle of wine.”

“We already have the second-highest tax burden in the nation. What makes this tax increase so damaging it that it will add to the cost of health insurance at a time when we already have an insurance affordability crisis,” said Josh Tardy, Maine’s House Minority Leader, in an interview with the site, PolitickerME. “It will add about $210 a year to a family policy.”  

Dirigo, the state’s health insurance program that started five years ago, covers approximately 18,000 people. Critics say the program has fallen far short of its goal to cover 128,000 people. According to the Maine Heritage Policy Center, Dirigo covers fewer than 5,000 people who previously lacked health insurance.  

A coalition of business groups formed Fed Up With Taxes and started a petition drive to get a proposal on November’s ballot to repeal the ‘beverage tax,’ as it’s known. The group gathered more than enough signatures, according to the Morning Sentinel. Another group, Health Coverage for Maine, is visiting voters at home to encourage them to keep the tax.

Jesse Graham, a spokesman for that group, told the Sentinel: “Maine people agree with us. They want to see affordable health insurance that covers their family and friends. A few cents on beer, wine and soda are one of the ways we’re going to get there.”

Both groups are running or planning to run television ads, and have accused the other of spreading misinformation, reports PolitickerME.

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