State Considers "Soda Tax"

Measure would raise money to fight obesity

By Yvonne Beltzer
|  Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011  |  Updated 7:26 AM PDT
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Some California lawmakers are seeing soda as liquid gold when it comes to help resolving the state's huge budget crisis and giving counties and schools a helping hand.

Assembly Bill 669  would add a penny an ounce tax to sweetened beverages.

The proposed measure would raise $1.7 billion to fight childhood obesity, but some see it as a way to  help out cash-strapped counties since the money generated by the measure would go directly to the counties.

The Assembly's Revenue and Taxation Committee held its first hearing today on the measure.

The question is whether pressure from grocery and similar lobbying groups would cause the bill to fizzle out?

Public health officials actually see it more as a win-win situation since soda and other sugar-laden drinks are a leading contributor to the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country.

"One 20 ounce soda," said Doctor Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advisory, "has 16 teaspoons of sugar."

AB 669 would tax any beverage with added sweeteners including soda, sports drinks and energy drinks.

The measure would provide as much as $300 million to school districts to develop anti-obesity programs and another $300 million to counties for obesity prevention.

The panel will vote on the soda tax on May 2nd.

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