by Kimberly Leonard
June 28, 2018
California cities and counties are banned from taxing sodas and other sugary drinks for the next 12 years under a bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
The deal was rushed through the legislature and to the governor’s desk on Thursday. In exchange for the law, the nonalcoholic beverage industry is withdrawing a ballot measure that had been slated for November. It would have raised the voter threshold to approve local sales tax increases on any item, not just soda taxes, from a majority vote to a supermajority vote.
Signatures were gathered for the ballot through a campaign funded by the beverage industry.
Upon signing the bill into law, Brown said in a statement that increasing the voting threshold “would be an abomination.” Other Democrats said that the choice had put them in a bind.
The bill passed the Senate 21-7, with most Republicans abstaining and with only Democratic support. The Assembly approved it 60-1.
Public health advocates have pushed for soda taxes in order to reduce the obesity and diabetes in the U.S. Berkeley was the first city to pass a soda tax in 2014, and San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany followed. Those cities will continue to have the taxes in place but other cities will not be able to implement them for at least a dozen years.
The American Beverage Association, which represents the industry, said that tax increases would have been unfair to consumers and that they already were working to both reduce sugar in their products and educate consumers.
“Our aim is to help working families by preventing unfair increases to their grocery bills,” said Lauren Kane, spokeswoman for the ABA. “At the same time, we’re working with the public health community and government officials to help Californians reduce sugar consumption in ways that don’t cost jobs or hurt the small businesses that are so important to local communities. We believe the legislation approved today will allow us to work toward these goals.”