Lawmakers consider proposing tax on coffee - VTDigger
 

Lawmakers consider proposing tax on coffee

David Deen

Rep. David Deen, D-Westminster, is chair of the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee. File photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Lawmakers are considering taxing coffee as a way to pay for the federally mandated cleanup of Lake Champlain.

The idea surfaced just recently in the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee, according to Rep. David Deen, D-Westminster, the committee’s chair.

The panel has been looking at ways to raise money for water quality improvement in the lake. State Treasurer Beth Pearce says the state needs to find revenue to pick up part of the $2.3 billion price tag.

Deen said coffee contributes to water pollution via human urine.

Wastewater treatment plants are unable to treat urine affected by coffee, because it contains caffeine and that chemical eventually ends up in waterways.

Deen said coffee has become “a compound of emerging concern” in scientific literature, while at the same time wastewater treatment plants are under pressure to reduce their discharge.

Deen said the committee isn’t sure how much money would be raised or whether it will try to implement the tax. The committee is still weeding through dozens of revenue ideas to fund water quality improvements, he said.

“We’re looking for change in the cushions,” he said.

If the committee does endorse a coffee tax, Deen said it would be a mill rate tax at the wholesale level, not on consumers at the retail level. He said the committee has not determined all the details. Oregon lawmakers have introduced a bill for a wholesale coffee tax of 5 cents a pound.

Paul Ralston, the president of Vermont Coffee Co., opposes the idea. He said a wholesale tax would directly impact Vermont roasters, not consumers, making it difficult for him to compete with out-of-state brands like Starbucks and Peet’s when selling across state lines.

When people buy a cup of coffee from a café, consumers already pay the state’s rooms and meals tax, Ralston said. Additionally, he said, because coffee is regulated as a food at the state and federal levels, taxing coffee would end a longstanding tradition in Vermont not to tax unprepared food.

“Right now coffee roasters all over the United States are in fear of Donald Trump’s proposed (20 percent) import tax from Mexico, because we buy a lot of coffee from Mexico,” Ralston said. “We thought this was a crazy Republican idea. The idea that it might be a crazy Democrat idea is unique to Vermont.”

He added: “Even broaching it, it just scares me. It scares me that as a state we’ve become so desperate for revenue that we’re really reaching into the real deep dark places in Vermont.”

Deen said the committee has welcomed other proposals. “The idea came up mainly because we’re not the only state in the Union that’s considering some type of tax, fee, surcharge — whatever you want to call it — on coffee,” he said.

He stressed that the idea is still young: “We’re at such an early level of discussion (that) it doesn’t even appear in writing anywhere.”

Erin Mansfield

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  • Gary Miller

    Is Rep. Deen sure he understands the science here? Are we to believe that the our wastewater treatment plants separate “caffeinated” and “decaf” urine into different streams, dump one and treat the other? A quick Google search reveals that caffeine is a marker for human pollution of waterways, but that it enters the system during septic leaks and sewage system overflows—not because it can’t be treated in sewage plants.

    In addition, I couldn’t find anything that stated a definite detrimental effect on plant or animal life caused by caffeine in a water system. There is, however a clearly defined detrimental effect caused by the release of phosphorus. So why not levy a tax on that pollutant, or others known to cause serious water damage?

    We might start with a per-pound levy on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, setting a higher rate on these for home use. People might want a green, weed-free lawn or a perfect, bug free garden, but no one needs one. People do need food, so farmers could pay a lower rate.

    If caffeine is seriously damaging waterways, then tax it. If it isn’t, tax the substances that are causing harm.

  • Rich Lachapelle

    Sounds like the latest: “an act to boost the sales of (a product) online and from New Hampshire retail outlets” from Vermont’s out-of-control Legislature. Rep. Deen, are you serious?…coffee induced urine? I would be interested to hear your explanation of how treatment plants separate the coffee urine from the rest of the urine since they are “unable to treat it”. Coffee is a diuretic, causing more water to pass and resulting in weaker urine. It is truly amazing how Vermont democrats try to squeeze the last few drops out of the middle class taxpayer turnip. If urine output is the issue, surely they will come after microbreweries next. You want some serious revenue? Tax illicit opioids. Who votes for these people?

    • John Poratti

      Right on. Vermont is taxing people out of the state. I just read a Kiplinger article about the 10 highest tax states for retired people, and it’s no surprise Vermont is the worst. Any wonder why retirees are moving to tax friendlier states.

      • Kevin Kuntz

        When I saw the headline of the article I laughed to myself and thought ,I bet they are going to indite urination. WOW ” The truth is really stranger than fiction”. Then Ireally laughed after finishing the article.

        How about cutting expenses? Just a thought. Then I laughed again and thought to myself are you CRAZY cut expenses ?

  • James Maroney

    Gosh, who knew coffee was such a public hazard. Have you thought of taxing NPK fertilizer Mr Deen or imported feed, the two greatest sources of phosphorus entering the watershed both of them unnecessary?

    • Bradleigh Stockwell

      That’s putting it in perspective. Why NOT tax the actual polluters rather than the “pollutees”? What Deen is advocating is like saying, “We need to tax all the culprits – you know: people who deliberate pollute our precious ecosystem with their latte-saturated urine.” As the saying goes, “When pee is out outlawed, only outlaws will have pee.”

  • lamb

    Coffee induced urine! They are really starting to get ridiculous now!

    • Zachary Kent

      This is like the time we were blaming global warming on cow flatulence!

      • Gus Steves

        Yeah because the notion of methane being a greenhouse gas is totally ridiculous!

  • Matt Young

    Is this an early April fools joke?

    • Wayne Peters

      Actually with prog/dems no tax is a joke. They will not be happy until you mail your paycheck to them.

  • Peter Starr

    Forget all of the Prescription drugs people are taking – its the Caffeine that’s going to take us down!!! … of course they cant bring drugs up, because, well, you know ….

  • John McClaughry

    In all the documents I have read on Lake Champlain pollution I’m certain I never came across the words “coffee”, “caffeine” or “urine” (aside from as a component of cow manure). Watch for Deen to come out for a carbon tax – not the one that is (supposedly) to be 90% offset by tax reductions, but the one that sucks millions of dollars into the General Fund to meet various competing “needs”, with no offsets whatever.

    • Glenn Thompson

      Wait until Mr. Deen looks into how eating “beans” leads to one passing “gas” which of course finds it’s way into the earth’s atmosphere that to some causes climate change. I look forward to someone proposing a tax on beans or any food known to have a high fiber content.

      Will the madness in Montpelier ever seize?

  • Paul Richards

    Sure, let’s tax chewing gum and gummy bears and pens and pencils and paper and junk mail (yes!) and, and snow from snow guns and everyone who turns right on red after stopping…double if they have out of state plates.
    How about some real effective measures like eliminating the discriminatory pension plans that taxpayers are on the hook for? Ever heard of “unfunded liabilities”? It gets whispered once and awhile.

    • Joanne Rose

      You mean teacher’s pensions?? I heard reference to that affecting the property tax!

  • Bradleigh Stockwell

    Mr. Ralston, president of Vermont Coffee Co., is quoted as saying “we buy a lot of coffee from Mexico.” I looked it up and, pun intended, Mr. Ralston doesn’t know beans about coffee imports from Mexico. We import more coffee from Brazil and Columbia than we do from Mexico, and twice as much for other sources around the globe as from Mexico. It’s charming to see Mr. Ralston tapping into the fear surrounding a theoretical tax which MIGHT be slapped on imports from Mexico, but we import only about 1/7 of our beans from across the border. Besides, most coffee grown on this side of the globe is the cheap, light, Folger’s type. We’re better off without it.

    • Christopher Pyatak

      Not so fast. 1/7 of our total coffee imports is still over 14 percent. Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil, and our (US) largest foodstuff import. Paul Ralston’s point was not that we as a nation get “most” of our coffee from Mexico. Moreover, when he said “we” he was referring to his own company. Neither you nor I are able to comment knowledgeably about from which origins Vermont Coffee Company is purchasing their green coffee. Lastly, the idea that coffee grown in the Americas is the “cheap, light, Folger’s type” shows a deep lack of knowledge about coffee production and trade in general. Many of the finest coffees in the world are grown in Western Hemisphere.

  • Angelo Napolitano

    This is NUTS….. careful with Ice Cream…. GOD only knows what that will do….. Especially if you use BOSCO on it…..

  • Larry Solt

    Stop with the taxes- this is a ridiculous proposal.

  • Bruce Wilkie

    We will be organizing a pee-in on the Statehouse lawn if this insanity become law.

  • John Molnar

    Mr. David Deen – I sure would like to see the ‘science’ you cite – not the alternative science. Your argument is bizarre and not believable. Please present facts.

  • Briana Kuk

    What a weak argument for the taxation of coffee – but not any other source of caffeine. If pharmaceuticals in our wastewater is a pressing issue then it should stand alone – and any taxes go to improving wastewater treatment facilities.

  • Jamie Carter

    “According to Deen, wastewater treatment plants are unable to treat urine
    affected by coffee, because it contains caffeine, so the untreated
    urine eventually ends up in waterways.”

    Oh good lord…. come on man. A quick google search will tell you how idiotic that statement is. you can’t treat urine because it has caffeine in it? What exactly are you “treating” it for? And why do you believe that caffeine acts to prevent said treatment?

    Please, someone take this man off any committee that requires scientific knowledge, critical thinking, and making comments to the press.

  • Frank Driggers

    How about installing “toll booths” at the fishing accesses across the lake? Pay a flat fee per hour of use for the lake. Or perhaps a tournament fee of $500 per contestant with another $250 per boat to fish the lake? Kayak tax of lets say $300 per year on top of the fee to use the lake? Maybe a “burn permit” to have a fire by the lake?

  • Kurt Eckert

    Burlington Coffee Party.

  • Rick Hodgson

    This is a stupid consumer tax tactic.
    I say collect fees from all the Canadian sail boats using the drawbridge at the gut, and all those kayaker’s using F&W boat launches. The boat launches are there for those that pay fishing license fees, yet those ‘yakker’s get a free pass.

  • Gary Miller

    Is Rep. Deen sure he understands the science here? Are we to believe that the our wastewater treatment plants separate “caffeinated” and “decaf” urine into different streams, dump one and treat the other?

    A quick Google search reveals that caffeine is a marker for human pollution of waterways, but that it enters the system during septic leaks and sewage system overflows—not because it can’t be treated in sewage plants.

    In addition, I couldn’t find anything that stated a definite detrimental effect on plant or animal life caused by caffeine in a water system. There is, however a clearly defined detrimental effect caused by the release of phosphorus. So why not levy a tax on that pollutant, or others known to cause serious water damage?

    We might start with a per-pound levy on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, setting a higher rate on these for home use. People might want a green, weed-free lawn or a perfect, bug free garden, but no one needs one. People do need food, so farmers could pay a lower rate.

    If caffeine is seriously damaging waterways, then tax it. If it isn’t, tax the substances that are causing harm.

    • John Molnar

      It would be helpful if Rep. Deen provided some citations from the scientific
      community regarding his statements …especially considering the prevailing ‘fake news’ climate.

  • Craig Miller

    Not sure which is worse, Trump in the White House or this guy who thinks caffeinated pee should be source for tax revenue. I think toll booths on each side of Westminster to help generate revenue would be more appropriate.

  • Guy Flatley

    LOL thinking of ways to raise revenues ?? thinking maybe the lost of federal dollars if this state becomes one of the sanctuary states , wake up you first need to control spending but i know democrats are not good at that . carbon tax written in a different way , more fees on inspections? the only place that is going to be left in Vermont will be the city’s . SAD

  • Brooke Paige

    Talk About Killing the Golden Goose – OMG !
    Say so long to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Vermont Coffee, Vermont Artisan Coffees, Brown and Jenkins and at least a dozen other roasters, large and small if this latest example of wrong-headed thinking is advanced in the “Land of Endless Taxes !”
    Time to End the Madness in Montpelier !

  • Katherine Silta

    Guess we will have to go to New Hampshire to buy our coffee along with everything else. The theory about the wastewater and caffeine is ludicrous. Wastewater treatment removes 99% of caffeine. Look it up..

  • Gary Dickinson

    This proposed tax would unfairly affect VT residents, as NY and Canadian residents will be free to dump their caffeine laden urine into Lake Champlain without penalty.
    To garner public support if passed all VT State properties should become caffeine-free, as a symbolic gesture, and have appropriate urine filtration systems installed, paid for solely by a direct levy on VT lawmakers. Additionally, VT should mandate the cost of a cup of caffeinated coffee carry a $100 surcharge in the city of Montpelier to help offset lake cleanup costs. With these changes implemented, I’m sure everyone can get behind this new tax.

  • wendywilton

    OMG. The picture of Rep. Deen, above says it all. Here’s the thought balloon:

    Yep, we are that desperate that taxing coffee and urine makes sense. If I say it to myself a hundred times…

  • Rich Lachapelle

    Take note of the 3 beverage containers in the photo of Rep. Deen. Only ONE is a re-useable mug, as is typically used for coffee. The other two are SINGLE-USE, DISPOSABLE, albeit recyclable plastic made from fossil carbon. The paper coffee cup with plastic lid has long since replaced the bud can as the most common piece of roadside litter in Vermont. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters came out with a “biodegradable” paper cup years ago that seems to make people think that it is ok to chuck them anywhere. You have a CHOICE as to what kind of containers and beverages you use and consume and there are environmentally responsible options. You do not have a choice about producing urine as long as you are alive.
    Earth to the Vermont Legislature: the solution to the problem is to CUT SPENDING!

  • James Rude

    When fake science meets up with fake news, we get real taxes!

  • James Rude

    You’ve got to like to comment that,”Deen said it would be a mill rate tax at the wholesale level, not on consumers at the retail level.” So, if you tax at the wholesale stage and don’t expect that wholesalers to pass their increased cost on to the retailers who purchase their products, then I guess all of the Hobbits in the shire will live happily ever after. I guess it’s a stretch for the politicians in Montpelier to grasp how our economy actually works.

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