San Francisco Supervisors Committee Supports Soda Tax on November Ballot

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    The San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Budget and Finance Committee unanimously voted Wednesday to recommend a tax on soda and sugary beverages sold in the city for the November ballot.

    The full Board is scheduled to vote on the soda tax Tuesday, and if the Board votes to place the initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot, the public will then decide whether the 2-cent tax on sweetened beverages will be enacted.

    Following the unanimous vote by the budget committee Wednesday, Supervisor Scott Wiener said, "These drinks are making San Francisco residents -- including children -- sick, and we need to address the growing diabetes epidemic in our city. Now is the time to act."

    The soda tax will fund active recreation activities and nutrition programs in San Francisco public schools and the city's Recreation and Park Department's sports programs and recreation centers. Through the city's Department of Public Health, the tax will fund food access and nutrition education.

    Supporters of the tax have called attention to health issues associated with drinking sugary drinks, such as obesity and diabetes.

    The proposal, primarily sponsored by supervisors Eric Mar, Scott Wiener, and co-sponsored by supervisors Malia Cohen, John Avalos, David Campos and David Chiu, would require a two-thirds vote to approve the tax.

    Peter Lauterborn, a legislative aide for Supervisor Mar, said the ballot initiative only needs six supervisors' approval at next week's meeting for it get to the ballot.

    "Public comment was dramatically in support," Lauterborn said Wednesday following the budget committee's vote.

    Beverage distributors would be charged the tax, which applies to other items such as sports drinks and powders mixed with water. The tax excludes diet sodas, unsweetened water and sugary drinks with under 25 calories per 12 ounces, according to Lauterborn.

    The tax is expected to bring in more than $35 million each year if approved and reduce consumption of sugary drinks by up to 31 percent, Weiner said Wednesday.

    Beverage industry advocacy groups including the American Beverage Association have come out against the proposal. The organization has sent out mailers to San Francisco residents hoping to dissuade local support for the November proposal.

    According to Wiener, under the proposed legislation, funding decisions will prioritize disadvantaged and low-income communities that are most impacted by obesity and diabetes.

    According to Choose Health SF, a group advocating for the so-called "Soda Tax," the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 648 -- which represents grocery store workers in San Francisco -- have endorsed the tax.

    Other supporters include the San Francisco Board of Education, the Hospital Council of Northern California, the California Nurses Association,the American Heart Association, and the San Francisco Food Bank.