(Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)
A tax on Christmas trees proposed by the Obama administration in an effort to promote the tree growers industry and scheduled to go in affect Wednesday was put on hold at the last minute, according to White House officials.
The proposed 15-cent tax on Christmas trees was designed to finance a new “Christmas Tree Promotion Board.” The board wanted to start a campaign similar to the campaigns of other agricultural-related industries, such as those conducted by the Milk Advisory Board.
The tax was announced by the Federal Register on Tuesday and was supported by Christmas tree growers, according to reports.
However, shortly after the announcement, the tax was lambasted by conservatives, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Fox News reported.
The tax was described by Scalise as being on par with a "Grinch" move by the Obama administration, according to Fox News. The congressman said he was ready to fight the proposed fee.
The White House shelved the proposal Wednesday afternoon, said spokesman Matt Lehrich.
"I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama administration is not taxing Christmas trees. What's being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign, similar to how the dairy producers have created the 'Got Milk?' campaign," Lehrich told Fox News. "That said, USDA is going to delay implementation and revisit this action."
The government’s plans were to tax producers and importers of fresh Christmas trees on those that sold or imported more than 500 trees per year, according to the Agricultural Department.
The National Tree Association denied that the tax would have been passed down to consumers, according to a statement from the group. Most growers commenting on the proposal were in favor of it, association officials said.
In what may have been the start of the fury over the proposed tax, Heritage Foundation Vice President David Addington published a blog post Tuesday evening with the headline: “Obama Couldn’t Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax.”
Addington first outlined the purpose of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board as outlined by the U.S. Agricultural Department.
The board was to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry.”
Addington concluded his post by stating: “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?”
“And, by the way, the American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn’t need any help from the government,” he added.
In addition to pointing to the likelihood that the tax would have been passed down to consumers, those opposed to the tax say the Christmas tree industry doesn’t need any help with image.
Addington quipped to Fox News, “It's inappropriate for the government to be putting its ‘thumb on the scale,’ helping out the fresh-tree sellers and not the artificial-tree sellers.”