California proposal to tax soda pushed to next year

Lawmakers' vote on a soda tax or limit on how much can be sold in a single cup has been pushed to next year.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Lawmakers won’t vote on a soda tax or limit how much can be sold in a single cup this year, marking the latest California victory for the beverage industry.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) on Monday delayed his soda tax bill until next year, saying it didn’t have enough support to pass.

New taxes need support from two-thirds of lawmakers. Earlier, Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) pulled his bill to limit soda sales to cups of 16 ounces in restaurants and convenience stores. Both were efforts to crack down on the soda industry and promote public health.


The delay “gives us the time to build the support we need to get to a floor vote,” Bloom said. “This particular measure is opposed by a very powerful contingent of business interests and they’re pouring everything they have into the fight.”

The proposals came after California lawmakers last year banned local governments from adopting soda taxes through 2030 under pressure from the American Beverage Assn. and business groups.

The beverage coalition had threatened a ballot measure that would make it harder to raise local taxes and fees of any kind, a move some lawmakers said amounted to hostage-taking to get the desired ban on local soda taxes.

The association cheered Bloom’s delay, saying a tax would impose a burden on low-income consumers.

“We are glad the legislature delayed action because California’s voters oppose a beverage tax which would be an unfair burden on working families, neighborhood businesses and employees already struggling with the state’s high cost of living,” spokesman Steven Maviglio said in an emailed statement.

Information on how much money the beverage industry has spent in the first part of 2019 won’t be available until April 30. But the American Beverage Assn. spent $1.1 million lobbying the Legislature in the last two-year session, according to filings with the secretary of state.


The California Medical Assn., another powerful interest group in the Capitol, backs the soda tax.

Bills to put safety warnings on sugary drinks and ban soda discount coupons are still before the Legislature.