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How Big Soda Strong-Armed California Into Banning Soda Taxes

July 9, 2018

Mother Jones,

July 6, 2018-

Back in November 2016, the soda industry got iced at the ballot box in California. Voters in three Bay Area municipalities—San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany—passed hefty taxes on sugary drinks. In doing so, they joined Berkeley, which had approved a similar measure two years before. The sugary drinks industry burned nearly $25 million campaigning against the 2016 measures, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Last week, Big Soda got its revenge. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill prohibiting counties and cities from enacting any new taxes on grocery items—including sugary beverages—until January 1, 2031. The bill grandfathers in previously passed taxes like the ones in the Bay Area; but it prevents any another California locality from passing one for another decade. Brown might seem like an odd apostle for Big Soda’s interests in Sacramento. But as this great Kaiser Health News piece shows, he had little choice, due to some bare-fisted power politics by the industry. Big Soda’s power play involved the state’s ballot initiative system.

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