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Lawmaker’s Bill to Tax Soda Fizzles

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A state senator has abandoned her plan to raise taxes on soda to help fight childhood obesity.

Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) cited a lack of support among Democrats and Republicans for her plan to add a tax of about 2 cents per 12-ounce serving of soda and other sweetened drinks. The tax would have raised more than $340 million a year and would have been used to combat rising rates of obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis among children.

“I knew it was going to be hugely difficult, if not impossible, to get a tax imposed,” Ortiz said. “But I wanted to raise the topic.”

Ortiz said Wednesday that she now will push to phase out soda sales in elementary schools by 2004, middle schools by 2005 and high schools by 2007. She said the changes to her bill, SB 1520, stay true to her larger goal of improving the quality of foods and beverages sold to students at schools.

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At a hearing last month, Ortiz testified that children consume more soda than water or milk and that one-third of California children are overweight or obese. She planned to use the money from the soda tax proposal to fund health-education programs and help schools get out of the business of selling sodas and junk foods to children on campus. Ortiz was referring to contracts some districts have signed with soft drink companies to raise money for activities and programs.

While garnering strong support among health-care advocates and school administrators, Ortiz’s soda tax plan faced stiff opposition from members of California’s business, restaurant and soda industries. It also angered conservative lawmakers who took issue with what they described as Ortiz’s big-government approach.

Assemblyman John Campbell (R-Irvine) said he was pleased that Ortiz realized the public opposes “further taxes and further demonizing of products they enjoy.”


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