California residents of Sacramento, Richmond and El Monte voted down three local ballot measures on Tuesday, all of them related to the food and beverage industry.
The cities of Richmond and El Monte proposed measures to tax sugar-sweetened beverages in an effort to raise money for health programs and decrease the consumption of high-calorie beverages linked to obesity and diabetes.
Richmond and El Monte have particularly high rates of overweight and obese children.
In El Monte, only 23 percent of voters backed Measure H, which would have implemented a penny-per-ounce-sold tax on businesses that sell any of the more than 700 brands of sugar-sweetened beverages. El Monte officials estimated that the measure would have generated between $3 million and $7 million of general fund revenues for the financially crippled city.
In Richmond, voters overwhelmingly shot down a similar proposal, Measure N, which city officials estimated could have provided $2 to $4 million of increased revenue.
The American Beverage Association contributed more than $2.5 million to help defeat the measure in Richmond, as well as an additional $1.3 million in opposition to the measure in El Monte.
Accompanying measures that dictated where tax revenue would be distributed were also proposed in both Richmond and El Monte.
In Richmond, Measure O would have advised city officials to use the tax money to promote youth health and recreation programs.
In El Monte, Measure C recommended that revenues pay for public safety, parks and recreation and wellness programs.
The measures failed in both cities, largely because residents believe they pay enough taxes. Many business owners also claimed the tax would hurt their companies.
“It’s going to kill my business,” Maria Varelas, owner of Golden Ox restaurant in El Monte, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “I’m going to lose money.”
Despite the measure’s failure, Richmond city council member John Ritterman remained optimistic.
“We took a lot of criticism that this tax was more appropriate on the state or national level, and I think it’s only a matter of time before we see those efforts take hold, too,” Ritterman told Mercury News.