Gov. Ricketts Decries Proposed Food, Bottled Water Taxes as "Reverse Robin Hood"
April 5, 2019
LINCOLN – Governor Pete Ricketts joined the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association (NGIA) and the Nebraska Beverage Association Wednesday to oppose proposals to place a sales tax on groceries, food, soft drinks, candy, and bottled water.
"In our moment of need, now more than ever, Nebraska needs tax relief that will bring our state together and not divide it," said Governor Ricketts. "New taxes on food, pop, candy, and bottled water would hit working Nebraskans hard at a time when many are struggling to put their lives back together. As a matter of fairness, it's not right to raise taxes on working families to pay for someone else's tax relief. This is 'Reverse Robin Hood.'"
Leia Noel, a registered dietician and volunteer with a non-profit that distributes food to needy individuals in the Lincoln area, spoke of the negative impact the tax would have on both rural and low-income Nebraskans.
"Higher cost of food translates to higher taxes on rural Nebraskans who already do not have access to the food programs that we have here in Lincoln," said Noel. "Are additional taxes the answer? I don't believe they are. While I understand the need for changes in our tax system, this should not be done at the expense of families that are food insecure."
Kathy Siefken, executive director of the NGIA, emphasized the regulatory costs of a selective tax on certain foods as well as the burden it would impose on grocers.
"Carving out specific items to tax is inefficient and costly for state government," said Siefken. "It requires more government lawyers, auditors and other staff to collect and enforce new tax laws. At the same time it will drive up the cost of food due to the labor and software upgrades required by all retailers who sell these items–hitting small retailers the hardest."
LinPepCo CEO, Kirk Anderson, expressed amazement that the Legislature would consider taxing bottled water as the state recovers from its more widespread natural disaster in Nebraska's history.
"In the wake of the historic flooding, Nebraskans are coming together, buying bottled water, and donating it to their neighbors," said Anderson. "And the response of the Legislature during this time of need is to propose taxing bottled water! Donating safe drinking water should never be taxed."