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Senate panel tables soda tax

A proposal to help Californians slim down by putting a sugar tax on soda has run afoul of another bloating problem -- that of the state budget.

A state Senate committee Wednesday put the legislation on hold, at least temporarily, because of its potential effect on the budget, which is already much fatter than tax revenues can support.

Although SB 1210 by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) could generate up to $1.4 billion next year in new tax revenue, it would also create a Children’s Health Fund to hold all of the money, which would be sent to local communities for expanded programs including those fighting childhood obesity.

The measure would impose an excise tax of 1 cent per teaspoon of sugar or other caloric sweetener in beverages.

Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, urged the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee to approve the bill, calling sugary soda "the single largest contributor to the obesity epidemic."

"These products are nothing but empty calories," said Goldstein, who was joined by the California Medical Assn. and individual physicians in arguing for the measure.

 But the measure is opposed by groups including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Assn. Opponents said the tax could raise the price of a bottle of soda by 30% or more.

“Not only will higher taxes fail to make people healthier, they will jeopardize good-paying jobs and put further pressure on our struggling retailers,” said Bill Dombrowski, president of the retailers group. “We simply can’t tax our way to healthier lifestyles.”

-- Patrick McGreevy

 
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