Yesterday, the Richmond, Calif., City Council rejected a measure to research placing a discriminatory beverage tax on the November ballot. This comes on the heels of a failed 2012 ballot measure to tax beverages which 67 percent of Richmond voters opposed.
Richmond joins dozens of other cities and towns across the country that have said no to taxing common beverages like soda, teas and juice drinks. More than 40 such tax proposals have been defeated since 2008. The reason for this is simple – people do not want the government in their grocery carts so they overwhelmingly oppose taxes on grocery items.
Soda taxes also hurt small businesses that are the backbone of Main Streets across America and the workers they employ. And these taxes cause the greatest harm to those who can least afford them.
Take, for example, Mexico. Since the country imposed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in 2014, thousands of small family stores were forced to close due in part to the tax, and nearly 11,000 jobs were eliminated that will not be recovered. Almost two-thirds of the tax is being collected from low-income people. Yet obesity rates have not budged as proponents said they would.
Policymakers should move on from this old, tired idea that has been proven to be a failure – for public health as well as for the local economy. Hopefully for Richmond, yesterday’s vote is the final nail in the coffin for the soda tax.