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California dental, medical associations want voters to decide soda tax in 2020

July 10, 2018

By Kimber Solana

Sacramento, Calif. — The California Dental Association and the California Medical Association announced July 2 that they want state voters to decide on a soda tax initiative on the 2020 ballot.

The ballot measure, if approved, would fund public health programs and constitutionally preserve the ability of California's local communities to make their own decisions regarding future soda taxes.

The two health care associations filed the ballot measure four days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill containing a soda tax ban, creating a 12-year moratorium on any local soda tax. The signing was in response to a ballot measure that could have jeopardized the fiscal outlook of local governments, according to a CDA news release. The soda industry had proposed in a ballot measure requiring cities and counties to achieve a two-thirds vote instead of the current 50 percent vote threshold to raise taxes.

"Big Soda may have won a cynical short-term victory but, for the sake of our children's health, we cannot and will not allow them to undermine California's long-term commitment to health care and disease prevention," wrote CDA chief strategy officer Carrie Gordon and Dustin Corcoran, CMA CEO, in a joint statement.

The 2020 ballot initiative by the California Dental Association and California Medical Association would implement a statewide 2-cents-per-fluid-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and is estimated to provide about $1.7 billion in revenue for health programs.

California jurisdictions that already impose sugar-sweetened beverage taxes include Albany, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco. Distributors of sugar-sweetened drinks, including iced teas, smoothies and soft drinks, in San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, pay an additional cent per ounce after voters in all three California municipalities supported the tax increase in 2016. Those communities are allowed to maintain the taxes and are not affected by the statewide moratorium signed by Gov. Brown.