There's a new effort to bring a statewide sugar-sweetened drink tax to California.
The measure is meant to fight childhood obesity and dental disease. But it could upend a compromise reached with the beverage industry in June that banned new local taxes on soda until 2031.
The California secretary of state's office late Thursday gave proponents the green light to start collecting signatures to qualify the sugary-drink tax measure for the 2020 ballot. It follows previous attempts to pass a statewide soda tax in California.
The tax could raise $2 billion to $3 billion by 2022-23 to pay for public health programs, according to estimates by the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst's Office. The proposed measure exempts diet sodas, milk and juice, as well as infant formula and medical beverages.
In June, the state legislature banned new local soda taxes until 2031, but that measure doesn't currently apply to statewide taxes. Assembly Bill 1838, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, was a compromise with the beverage industry, which had funded a ballot measure that would have made it tougher for local governments in California to raise new revenues.
The California Medical Association and California Dental Association proposed the statewide tax on soda and other sugary beverages after the beverage industry prevailed in its efforts to defeat new new local soda taxes.
"For too long, California has lacked adequate support for programs that address the health effects of consumption of sugary beverages," said Natasha Lee, practicing general dentist and president of CDA. "With this initiative, our state has the opportunity to improve public health, especially among children."
If passed, the proposed initiative would create a new two-cent-per-ounce excise tax on sugary drinks. The majority of the revenue would go to fund prevention and treatment programs for medical and dental diseases linked to sugary drinks. A portion of it would pay for improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables as well as research on diseases linked to sugar-sweetened drinks.