Saturday, March 18, 2017

Santa Fe Proposes to Tax Sweetened Beverages to Fund Early Childhood Education

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The next time you buy a bottle or a six-pack of Coke or a Pepsi at a grocery store in Santa Fe, you might be helping to fund early childhood education in the City Different. The Santa Fe City Council recently voted to put a sweetened beverage tax of 2 cents per ounce to a vote by city of Santa Fe residents in May. The tax, if passed by voters would invest in Pre-K education for children in Santa Fe, closing a funding gap for parents who are not always able to afford Pre-K. Santa Fe would be joining the municipalities of Boulder, Berkeley and Philadelphia, the Navajo Nation, and the country of Mexico in imposing a tax on sugared beverages.

Mayor Javier Gonzales estimates the soda tax would raise about $10.6 million a year. However,  Santa Fe's daily newspaper  The New Mexican  points out that the estimate appears to be much higher than revenue estimates in other cities that have approved similar taxes. Regardless, Gonzales believes the revenues would enable the city to send 1,200 more 3- and 4-year-olds to early education programs at no cost to their families.

There is some opposition to the tax. a coalition called Better Way for Santa Fe & Pre-K suggests that the tax is regressive and harmful to certain businesses. "It’s a tax that places a larger share of the tax burden on Santa Feans least capable of paying it. Stores and restaurants in Santa Fe would be hurt by this tax. They’d have to pass it on to customers, many of whom will shop and eat outside city lines to avoid the tax. That will cost people who work here their jobs and income," says the organization.

Conversely, The Santa Fe Food Policy Council and other organizations offered public testimony in support of the tax.

In a recent blog post, author and food activist Mark Winne noted that raising funds for Pre-K is just one part of the equation. The other important aspect of the proposal is health and nutrition.

"As I look at this flurry of soda taxing activity around the nation, I have to ask myself, why are we suddenly emboldened to take on Coke, Pepsi, and the nation’s other sugar pushers? Do we want to raise municipal revenue, reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, or really improve human health?"

"The evidence on the deleterious health effects of sugar is virtually ironclad. When a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola contains 65 grams of sugar, and health experts tell us that we shouldn’t consume more than 50 grams per day (25 grams being the more desirable level); when our obesity and overweight rates have risen two- to three-fold since 1994 due in large part to an overconsumption of calories, a disproportionately large share of which are derived from beverages; and when dental caries, diabetes, and host of other human illnesses are linked to the overconsumption of sugar, we shouldn’t have to waste any more time making the case against sugar."

Read Winne's full piece, entitled Should the Food Movement Embrace Soda Taxes?  

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