(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – A Nevada lawmaker has asked for a bill to be drafted to require bottled water to be subjected to the state sales tax.
Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said bottled water is included under the sales tax exemption for food in Nevada even though it has no nutritional value.
Segerblom said taxing the beverage would bring in much needed revenue for the upcoming two-year budget. It is time for the Legislature to review all tax exemptions as a way to generate revenue for programs without raising taxes, he said.
Segerblom says he does not support taxing food.
“The purpose as I understand to exempt food is you don’t want to make it any more expensive than possible for people to survive, and obviously again, bottled water is not necessary to survive,” he said.
The only exception in Nevada now is prepared food intended for immediate consumption, which is subject to the sales tax.
The bill draft request was actually made by Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, on behalf of Segerblom. Mortenson, who is termed out of office and won’t be serving in the 2011 legislative session, said he gave Segerblom one of his bill draft requests as a courtesy, even though he does not support the idea.
Segerblom said he has been unable to get information on how much revenue might come from taxing bottled water, which has become a ubiquitous item provided at meetings and carried by many people on a routine basis.
Tom Lauria, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association, called a move to tax bottled water shortsighted.
“The FDA is very clear in classifying bottled water as a food, and for some people it is a necessity,” he said. “They don’t have up-to-standard tap water or they have personal immunity problems from cancer or HIV and they require purified water as part of their regular diet.”
Bottled water is very popular, seeing a slight decline last year but still hitting sales of more than $8 billion in the U.S., Lauria said.
Most states that do not tax food do not tax bottled water either, he said. Three states that do not tax food, Washington, New York, and Maryland, have chosen to tax bottled water, Lauria said.
The temporary tax on bottled water in Washington is now on the November ballot for potential repeal by voters.