The Budget and Finance Committee Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a tax of two cents per ounce on bottled sugary beverages like sodas and energy drinks. If, as predicted, the Board of Supervisors approves the proposal next week, the so-called “soda tax” will appear on the November ballot.
Sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Chiu, Mar, Wiener and Cohen, the tax targets sugary drinks because of their connection with diabetes and obesity. It is expected to reduce soda consumption by up to 31 percent, generating between $35 and $52 million in revenue in the process.
According to the proposal, the tax revenue would pay for health and nutrition programs at public schools, parks, the Department of Public Health, or community-based organizations. The tax legislation also stipulates that money from the tax will not affect existing government resources for health and nutrition programs—in other words, current funds cannot be funneled away as new money from the tax comes in.
Opponents, including the American Beverage Association-funded campaign Coalition for an Affordable City, argue that the tax unfairly affects low-income consumers. Beverly Masri, who owns the Golden Gate Market and Deli at 25th and Mission streets, is concerned consumers will be misled by the description of the tax.
“Nobody drinks an ounce of soda,” Masri said. A can of soda usually contains 12 ounces, so its price would jump by 24 cents. A large two-liter bottle of soda would cost an additional 68 cents.
Ross Mackenzie, one of the owners of the Fizzary on Mission Street, said he thinks the tax would affect a wide spectrum of customers. The specialty sodas that line the walls of his shop might cater to those with more disposable income, but Mackenzie says his customers also include children who come in to spend their allowance on sweet drinks.
If the tax is enacted, Mackenzie said, “People are going to be unpleasantly surprised.” A four-pack of soda from the Fizzary would go from $6 to about $8.
Masri sees the tax as another way for city government to make money, and expressed her skepticism about the effectiveness of the proposal.
“They’re overstepping their bounds, taking on things that parents should be deciding,” she said. “They know people will still buy it.”
The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the soda tax proposal Tuesday, July 22.