UPDATE: President Obama has scrapped the 15 cent charge on Christmas Trees amid Internet uproar.The effort, which was scrapped by the administration on Wednesday, the same day it was set to go into effect, would have imposed the fee on most American growers for each fresh-cut Christmas tree sold this holiday season. ABC News explains that the proposal was backed by the very growers that would have had to pay the fee, and that the money would have gone to a new marketing board set up by the tree growing industry, much like the "Got Milk" dairy marketing campaign or the beef industry’s "What’s for Dinner" commercials.
Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation is up in arms over a 15 cent charge per Christmas tree for fresh cut trees for those who sell more than 500 trees annually. The Heritage Foundation is claiming this is a "tax" on Christmas trees:
To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52). And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.
Acting Administrator Shipman had the temerity to say the 15-cent mandatory Christmas tree fee “is not a tax nor does it yield revenue for the Federal government” (76 CFR 69102). The Federal government mandates that the Christmas tree sellers pay the 15-cents per tree, whether they want to or not. The Federal government directs that the revenue generated by the 15-cent fee goes to the Board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out the Christmas tree program established by the Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. President, that’s a new 15-cent tax to pay for a Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.
Nobody is saying President Obama doesn’t have authority to impose his new Christmas Tree Tax — his Administration cites the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. Just because the Obama Administration has the legal power to impose its Christmas Tree Tax doesn’t mean it should do so.
The economy is barely growing and nine percent of the American people have no jobs. Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do?
The Federal Government disagrees:
Under the proposed Order, the assessments to fund the program would be mandatory, therefore, providing consistent funding by stakeholders. In addition, several comments in favor of the proposed Order supported the consistent funding which would provide the industry with a workable program to increase sales. Furthermore, a third party five-year evaluation is required of all research and promotion programs to determine the benefits to their industries under section 515(h) of the 1996 Act. These evaluations are available from the Boards and are posted on the AMS Web site. The industry may terminate the program if the first evaluation does not show a benefit to the Christmas tree industry.
Taxes don't get terminated by the industry–so is it a tax, or a fundraiser to fund a program to increase sales? Fresh tree sales have declined considerably since 1965 with the advent of the artificial tree. New programs to increase sales are necessary for the fresh tree industry to survive. One might hazard this accusation from the Heritage Foundation is yet another attack in the "war on Christmas" that conservatives have been trying to wage for years.