Michigan Legislature votes to ban local food, beverage taxes

LANSING, Mich. — Local taxes on food and beverages would be preemptively banned in Michigan under legislation that is likely to be signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Republican-led Legislature finished approving the bill Thursday, just weeks after its introduction. While no Michigan municipalities are considering an excise tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages, business groups and others lobbying for the measure pointed to soda taxes in Philadelphia and the Chicago area as reason enough to move quickly.

The penny-per-ounce tax on cola and sweetened drinks in Cook County, Illinois, was repealed Wednesday after a monthslong conflict that included a court battle and millions of dollars' worth of television ads on both sides. The tax will end Dec. 1.

The sponsor of the Michigan measure, Republican Rep. Rob VerHeulen of Walker, said soda taxes "cause disruption and the loss of jobs" and are regressive, disproportionately affecting lower-and middle-income consumers. He said while he does not think local governments can levy their own food and beverage taxes under current law, it is best to "make the law very clear."

Michigan generally exempts food and drinks sold at grocery stores from the state sales tax.

The legislation — which won final approval in the Senate on a 30-5 vote Thursday after clearing the House 101-7 last week — is supported by many business trade associations, a labor union and advocates for the poor. It is opposed by local governments and health groups.

Snyder spokeswoman Tanya Baker said he has not reviewed the bill. The Republican governor's administration did not oppose it during the legislative process.

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Online:

House Bill 4999: http://bit.ly/2xRdDuj

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/David%20Eggert

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