Two cities in the state sought new taxes on sugary beverages on Tuesday. Both failed by wide margins as a coordinated and well-funded campaigns turned the tide of voters’ feelings.
Both El Monte and Richmond posed the question to voters: do you want to add a one-penny-per-ounce tax onto the cost of sugary drinks? An underwhelming 33 percent said yes in Richmond. In El Monte, the tax performed even worse at just 23 percent approval.
The new tax revenue would have flowed into the cities’ general funds. It was up to a non-binding advisory vote as to how the money should be allocated. In Richmond, more than 60 percent of voters supported using the tax revenues for health and wellness programs. But that was a moot point in the wake of the crushing defeat.
Both El Monte and Richmond suffer some of the highest rates of childhood obesity. The tax was intended to make sugary drinks more expensive and dampen the market for the drinks. The resulting revenues could then be used to promote childhood health.
In El Monte, the money was also being looked at as a way to slow the city’s “march to bankruptcy.” There, the non-binding advisory vote would have expressed voters desire to see the money be spent on public safety, parks and recreation, and wellness programs.
According to a study used by proponents to promote the tax measure, the tax could have impacted minority populations and reduced diabetes in the Latino and African-American communities by 8 percent.