- Published on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 00:29
- Written by By Emmanuel T. Erediano - Reporter
- Hits: 3284
VICE Speaker Felicidad T. Ogumoro yesterday pre-filed a bill to impose a 5 percent tax on 20 types of food commodities including Spam, chocolate, ice cream, soda and peanut butter.House Bill 17-320 also proposes to create a special healthcare impact fund to help the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. pay its debt to the Marianas Public Land Trust.
In an interview, Ogumoro, R-Saipan, said her bill will help combat the CNMI’s growing problems of obesity and other non-communicable diseases while helping the government generate revenue that will allow CHC to pay back the loan it obtained from MPLT.
“Now that the impeachment issue is over, let us focus on revenue generating measures to help our commonwealth,” said Ogumoro, one of the impeachment panel members who voted against the resolution.
Her bill, H.B. 17-320, will assess a special healthcare impact tax on unhealthy items, including canned and prepared meat like Spam, corned beef and sardines; animal and vegetable fats; candy; candied nuts; chips and other savory snack foods; chocolate and foods containing chocolate; cocoa; butter; coconut oil; ice cream; edible ice; lard; margarine; salad oil; peanut butter and paste; salt; soybean oil, vegetable oil; soft drinks and other carbonated and non-carbonated drinks.
Ogumoro’s bill also imposes a 5 percent tax on betelnuts, leaves, lime, beer, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, distilled alcohol, liqueurs and wine.
The tax will be collected by the Division of Customs at NMI’s points of entry.
Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Douglas Brennan, in a separate interview, noted that “lawmakers don’t want to cut their own spending.”
He said because it’s an election year, those who support the bill will tell the voters that the tax burden will be on importers.
But the truth is, Brennan added, this burden will be passed on to consumers.
“It’s going to cost the consumers more. If they, the lawmakers, raise taxes, they tell voters it’s on the businesses. But it’s the consumers that are actually going to hurt,” Brennan said.
He said instead of imposing more taxes, the government should control its spending and be accountable for the tax money it spends.
Rep. Tony P. Sablan, R-Saipan, said that when it comes to raising taxes, “a lot of caution should be exercised especially now that people are already suffering from the high cost of almost everything.”
Sablan said no matter how the proponents try to justify the tax-hike measures, “it will always come back to consumers.”
Others point out the cash-strapped CNMI government’s failure to remit fees and tax collections to their designated beneficiaries.
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