WV Legislators Propose Sugary Drink Tax to Fund PEIA

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) - In an effort to encourage West Virginians to make healthier choices and tackle rising insurance costs, advocates say raising the tax on sugary drinks will generate a lot of money. 

West Virginia House Bill 4344 would increase the tax to two cents per ounce on sugary sodas. 

Christine Compton with the American Heart Association says the bill would provide $80 million dollars annually to PEIA. However, the incentive is mostly to improve the state's overall health.

"Not only do we help curb an issue that is out of control as far as the health of the West Virginians diet but also trying to reduce those health care costs specifically to the state's largest insurer," said Compton.

A 2017 report from Trust for America's Health and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found West Virginia's obesity rate was more than 37%, the highest in the nation. 

But the idea of raising taxes is not a popular one. 

Compton acknowledges that the idea of raising taxes is not a popular one, saying, "Sometimes a tax is not the most favorable of things, but you know this is a choice to pay this tax you don't have to have a luxury item like a soda that you can have once and a while like a sugary drink."

The West Virginia Beverage Association also weighed in on the proposed tax increase, saying in part:

"There is no evidence that beverage taxes make people healthier. Instead, taxes hurt the very people they are intended to help, resulting in fewer jobs, falling sales at neighborhood businesses and higher prices for working families."

The bill is currently in the House Health and Human Resources Committee. 

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