soda tax

Then-Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel, presented his penny-per-ounce soda tax proposal in 2011. AB 669 never advanced beyond the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. 

No need to uncork Champagne; beverage industry leaders might rather pop sodas to celebrate the defeat of State Sen. Bill Monning's, D-Carmel, proposed soda tax in the California Senate Committee on Appropriations Thursday. 

SB 622 would've placed a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in California, generating an estimated $1.7 billion annually to fund children's nutrition and phys ed programs, intended to battle obesity in California.

Appropriations held the bill back due to the start-up costs to the Board of Equalization of administering a new tax. That means the bill can still be revived next year. 

“I remain committed to enacting SB 622, as it will improve children’s lives and significantly reduce the amount Californians will pay to treat chronic diseases,” Monning said in a statement.

Monning proposed a similar tax as an assemblyman about two years ago, which similarly never advanced to a floor vote. He expressed optimism that this time around it would be different.

“It’s a little bit of a different playing field now,” Monning told the Weekly 

The beverage industry has rallied against sugary-drink taxes, leveraging the American Beverage Association PAC to battle two 2012 local ballot initiatives that would've taxed soda, in the cities of El Monte and Richmond. (Voters defeated both.)

Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, reported a $1,000 contribution from the lobbyist California Beer & Beverage Distributors in 2011. 

American Beverage Association Spokesman Chuck Finnie says the tax would be less effective than supporters have portrayed it would be, because it would tax distributors, who may not pass the full penny-per-ounce on to consumers. Instead, they could absorb that cost by increasing the price of other products, or laying off workers, Finnie says. "The argument that a tax like this is go to change consumption habits is ridiculous."

That hasn't stopped local efforts to curb soda consumption, though. As reported by SFist, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution proclaiming June, July and August as a "Soda Free Summer" countywide.

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(2) comments


The only thing SB622 would have done was set a troublesome precedent. If we allow the government to slap a tax on a common, everyday item like soft drinks, we will be inviting them to look around for more common, everyday items to tax. Where will it end? Furthermore, there is no evidence to support Mr. Monning’s claims that such a tax would do anything at all about obesity. According to a study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health, it just won’t work (

Militant Pragmatist

C'mon Bill. This is never going to pass. Turning soda drinking into a revenue stream is a non-starter, especially because it hits hardest the poorest and least educated who are the most likely to have poor nutrition habits.

Instead, why not simply ban the manufacture and importation of high fructose corn syrup? Nutrition research has established that "HFCS" has played a big role in driving bigger portion sizes. Requiring the soda makers to return to their old sucrose-based formulas won't eliminate the problem, but it might at least keep it from getting worse.

Of course, Pepsi and Coke will attempt the usual corporate blackmail by threatening to leave the state. Really? They would abandon one of their largest domestic markets because their cost of producing a gallon of syrup might go up a penny or two?

A ban on HFCS would point the way for other states, just as California did in the 60s and 70s when it leaned on the Big 3 automakers to get serious about tailpipe emissions.

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