LOS ANGELES – California and Oregon voters may soon have the opportunity to vote on controversial soda taxes which could bring in millions of extra dollars annually.
Portland-based Upstream Public Health filed paperwork June 7 to place on the ballot a once cent per ounce Multnomah County tax on sugary drinks that would officially take effect January 1. 2017, though the county would not actually begin collecting the tax until a year later. The proceeds, an estimated $22 million annually, would be funneled into a Children's Health and Education Fund that would fund programs related to children's nutrition, physical activity and early education.
"This initiative will fund effective programs to improve the health of our children, such as healthier food in schools, physical activity programs, and preschool education for low-income families," said Mel Rader, executive director of Upstream. "A distribution tax on soda is the ideal way to fund these critical initiatives, because it will reduce the consumption of empty calories which are linked to diabetes, heart disease and other conditions."
The idea has failed in Oregon before, and in most other places where it has been tried. Soda and sports drink manufacturers have lobbied hard against those taxes. Berkeley, Calif. already has a soda tax, and proponents of such measures are also renewing pushes for them in San Francisco and Oakland. Philadelphia became the first large city to adopt a soda tax earlier this month.
A representative for former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supported the Philadelphia tax, said the billionaire plans to get behind more of those efforts.
"We expect to be involved in Oakland and San Francisco," she said. "We are closely watching other areas that may be considering it but beyond that, we don't have any further details to share at this moment."