As we predicted on this blog in November 2016, more jurisdictions have now followed the lead of cities like Berkeley, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland and Boulder by introducing legislation to tax sweetened beverages. However, these efforts are not always successful.

  • On May 2, 2017, Santa Fe, New Mexico voters rejected a proposed tax of two cents per fluid ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages to be paid by distributors. Funds raised from the tax would have supported early childhood education. It is noteworthy that in Santa Fe political spending on the soda tax initiative was estimated at $163 per vote, higher than any other city that has voted on implementing a sugar-sweetened beverage tax.
  • In Massachusetts, the FY 2018 budget was passed without an amendment that would have established a tiered tax on sugar sweetened beverages. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kay Khan (D), withdrew the amendment but will continue to advocate for a tax on sugar sweetened beverages during the current legislation session. (See Bloomberg BNA.) She introduced H.3329, “An Act to Promote Healthy Alternatives to Sugary Drinks,” in January 2017. Two other jurisdictions that recently proposed sweetened beverages taxes are Seattle and Multnomah County (where Portland, Oregon is located).
  • In April, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a proposed ordinance to impose a tax on distributors of sugar sweetened drinks to fund programs “aimed at eliminating the opportunity gap between white students and African American/Black and other students of color.” The proposed tax of 1.75 cents per ounce of sweetened beverage would apply to sodas, energy and sports drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened teas, and ready-to-drink coffee drinks. Infant formula, 100% fruit juice, medicine and milk-based products would be exempt.
  • Voters in Multnomah County, Oregon may have an opportunity to decide in November if the county should impose 1.5 cents per ounce tax on sugary drinks—including soda, energy drinks and sweetened teas—to help pay for early childhood education and other educational programs. Diet sodas would be among the beverages exempted from the tax. Health advocates will need to gather 17,381 signatures to get the measure placed on the ballot, according to the Portland Patch.
  • As more states and local jurisdictions look at taxing sweetened beverages to compensate for budget short falls, we will continue to report on this trend.