Berkeley Soda Tax Supporters Hope New Cost Hits Consumers Hard

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Berkeley, California, has now become the first city in the U.S. to implement a soda tax under the banner of Measure D, garnering 75 percent of the vote on Tuesday, Mercury News reports.

One of the motivations of the tax is to discourage over-consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and to perhaps contribute to chipping away at the climbing diabetes rate. The hope is that distributors will transfer the tax down to the consumers in the form of higher prices. Others are less hopeful, arguing that the tax instead will hurt small businesses and be applied inconsistently, to some beverages and not others, which will systematically disadvantage some sectors of the beverage market.

The measure failed elsewhere, like in San Francisco, but in Berkeley, the tax will mean a 1-cent-per-ounce soda charge for sugar-sweetened beverages. It is estimated the city will bring in $1 to $2 million dollars a year from the activity. San Francisco upped the stakes with Measure E, forwarding a tax of 2-cents-per-ounce, but the proposal failed because in San Francisco, special taxes require a two-thirds majority vote, and Measure E received only 55 percent of the vote.

“We think it’s going to be a historic moment for our kids’ health,” said Martin Bourque, executive director of the nonprofit Ecology Center in Berkeley. “It shows that a community can organize for its own interests in spite of the outrageous amount of money spent against its interests.”

“The tides have turned on Big Soda.”

Supporters for Measure D received around $85,000 from former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Now with success in hand from Berkeley, proponents of the tax are emboldened, arguing that other cities will likely be open to similar proposals, even if San Francisco rejected joining alongside in this round. But the No campaign quickly pointed out that Berkeley is not a good representative case for municipal politics across the country, owing to its particularly aggressive form of progressive politics.

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