California organizations fight for soda tax

Thursday, August 29, 2019
California organizations fight for soda tax
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Advocates in the Valley and in the Bay Area say taxing sugary drinks will improve people's health and bring in millions of dollars to the state.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A proposed statewide tax increase on a can of soda fell flat, but both local and Bay Area organizations are fighting on, saying a soda tax could improve health, while raking in millions of dollars.

The Praxis Project out of Berkeley, along with other local organizations, came together on Wednesday to speak with advocates on the benefits of taxing sugary drinks.

Only a handful of Bay Area cities, including Berkeley, currently have a one cent per ounce tax on soda.

Javier Morales with the organization says the goal is to improve the health of the community.

"Latinos and African Americans born today, unless we change the environment, more than 50 percent of them will get diabetes at some point in their life," he says.

In Fresno, researchers say the rates of heart disease and diabetes are some of the worst in the state.

"Fresno had very high rates of heart disease. If we look at the congressional districts, we're 10 out of 80, and 13 our of 80 for heart disease," says Chris Madsen, a profssor at the Berkeley School of Health.

By implementing that tax in Fresno, organizers say it would raise about $7 million.

"We could use some of it to address water quality issues in our communities, we could say we want to invest it in community kitchens," says Veva Islas of Cultiva La Salud.

This comes months after a soda bill in the legislature didn't get enough support to pass.

A spokesperson for the American Beverage Association said, "California's voters oppose a beverage tax which would be an unfair burden on working families, neighborhood businesses and employees already struggling with the state's high cost of living."

Morales says it would be a while before any measure could be voted on.

Morales says there are coalitions trying to repeal that preemption.

In the meantime, he says they plan to do six briefings around the state to prove the tax works, and hopefully, improve the health of local communities.