U.S. soda makers headed for tax showdown in California
By Anjali Athavaley and Lisa Baertlein
BERKELEY, Calif/NEW YORK Nov 3 (Reuters) - No American city has passed a ballot measure raising taxes on sugary drinks, and ahead of votes Tuesday in Berkeley and San Francisco, the U.S. soda industry has been working hard to keep it that way.
In Berkeley alone, the American Beverage Association and its members have spent at least $2.1 million, or about $27 per eligible voter, to fight a ballot measure that would impose a new 1-cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages that supporters say would reduce consumption and battle obesity and diabetes.
In nearby San Francisco, the industry has spent $9 million, or about $19 per eligible voter, to beat back a 2-cent per ounce tax proposal on such beverages, which include soda and energy drinks, and would add 24 cents to the price of a typical drink.
The industry argues that the taxes unfairly single out one product category and would hit low income consumers the hardest.
The "No" camp has put up billboards and stuffed mailboxes in both cities with flyers. "Enough is enough!" declares one, calling the proposed San Francisco tax "regressive" and warning it would make living in one of the nation's most expensive cities even more difficult.
In Berkeley train stations industry billboards declare: "Watch out for loopholes" - a warning that the tax would apply to some drinks, but not other high-calorie products such as chocolate milk, alcoholic beverages or 100 percent juice drinks.
"What the soda industry is worried about is momentum, you win one and it makes it easier to win the next one and the next one," said Michael Roberts, executive director of the Resnick Program for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law School.
So far, the $76 billion industry, which has been struggling with lackluster sales, has managed to stem the tide. Continuación...