I’ll Have a Soda With No Tax, Please

Just after the New Year, a photo taken by the Washington Policy Center, a free-market think tank in the Evergreen State, generated national headlines over a photo illustrating the spike in soda costs in the city of Seattle.

A photo taken at a local Costco showed that a recently-enacted city tax on sodas had increased the cost of a 35-bottle package of Gatorade energy drinks from $15.99 to a whopping $26.33.

Recently, the city of Seattle had enacted a 1.75 cent-per-ounce tax on “sugar sweetened beverage with added caloric sweeteners or syrups.”  This resulted in the $10.34 increase for the cost of a case of Gatorade.

In a brilliant marketing move, Costco also posted a chart showing that the same case of Gatorade could be purchased for a significantly lower price at its nearby locations outside the city limits, where the tax doesn’t apply.

Usually it’s California that leads the way in these silly ideas, but surprisingly our Legislature hasn’t yet enacted a statewide soda tax.

Over the years, California lawmakers have passed a litany of intrusive bills to tell you what kind of car to drive, how to raise your children, and what food to eat.  It’s only a matter of time before they try and tell you what to drink.

That’s not to say that lawmakers haven’t tried to pass a statewide soda tax.  Statewide soda taxes have been introduced in previous legislative sessions, but aren’t on the Capitol fast track as of today.  A 2016 bill, AB 2782 by Assembly Member Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, would have enacted a 2 cent-per ounce tax on sodas – a $2 billion tax increase.

It’s only a matter of time another legislator looking for tax revenue and headlines will make another go at it.

Soda taxes have been more successful at the local level.  In the 2016 election, voters in San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany enacted local soda taxes.  This is in addition to a soda tax previously adopted in Berkeley.

A UC Berkeley study found that soda consumption dropped 20 percent after the city adopted its soda tax.

This shows what the true motivation of the soda tax movement really is – another government move to try and dictate how you live your life.

Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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