AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Legislature is being asked to put a new tax on water. Specifically, the water that's bottled by one of Maine's best-known companies.
Lawmakers are again considering a bill to impose a water extraction tax on water bottle by Poland Spring. The tax would be fairly small--- one cent for every 25 gallons--- and the money would be dedicated to a new Water Quality Testing and Monitoring Fund, to test well water and lake quality. The bill sponsor, Rep. Gina Makaragno (D-Auburn) said Monday the testing wells in a number of areas need to be tested for arsenic and other contaminants, and that many people don’t test because of the cost. She said the fund for the testing and monitoring is needed, and the tax would generate around $360,000 per year.
A spokeswoman for Poland Spring, however, said Monday that even the small amount generated by the tax would increase business costs, affect expansion plans and possibly lead to more taxes in the future. Heather Printup said the company is looking at sites in western Maine and in the Penobscot Valley for a new bottling plant, and suggested that uncertainty over the tax would make it difficult to decide on a site. She also said the company worried that passage of the small tax would open the door to tax increases in the years ahead. Supporters of the bill point out that other states place an extraction tax on oil and gas, and suggested that an extraction tax on water would be similar. Printup argued that the two situations are very different, saying that water is a “rapidly renewing resource”.
At Monday’s hearing before the Taxation Committee, only Rep. Malaragno and a few others spoke in favor of the bill. More than two dozen opponents, many of them from companies that do business with Poland Spring, spoke against it.