Time to Stockpile Diet Coke?

Scott Lucas | November 19, 2013 | Story

Yesterday, Supervisor Eric Mar, joined by Supervisors Cohen and Avalos, announced that his proposal for a tax on sodas would likely be merged with Supervisor Wiener's similar proposal, making it extremely likely that the measure will end up before San Francisco voters in a future election. If the four supervisors, who represent moderate and progressive points of view among them, can hammer out an agreement on how to spend the funds that a tax would raise, it looks as if the measure would receive broad support from the political elite. Mar even went so far as to say that he was aiming for unanimous support at the Board.

They will need it, though, because the soda industry has already come out swinging. In a statement released yesterday, Californians for Food and Beverage Choice, an industry group, said that elsewhere, such taxes “have been soundly rejected by voters each time they have been proposed.”

So does would our tax stand a Coke's chance in hell at passing? After all, a similar measure went down in flames in Richmond in 2012, losing by a 67-33 margin. Should you start stockpiling 2 liters of Diet Coke at pre-tax prices? Or it is just all the caffeine that's making you paranoid?

We asked political analyst David Latterman, Public Research Associate at USF, what he thought. "The demographics are different here—there are fewer people proportionally who will be adversly economically affected by this, like poorer residents and minorities," he said. (Latterman works as a consultant for Supervisor Wiener, although not on this issue). "I think this will do better in SF than in Richmond one way or the other."

The soda tax in San Francisco would likely have to clear a 2/3rds threshold with the voters. That's because the funds would be earmarked for specific city programs, like schools, parks and rec, or low income public health. Though the threshold is high, that may actually help the chances of the measure. A Field Poll released in February showed that only 40% of California voters supported a sweetened beverage tax—but that number jumped to 68 if the proceeds were to benefit school and health programs.

For more about whether soda taxes actually work, see our story.

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