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ELECTION BRIEFS: Prop V - Sugar-sweetened beverage tax

"Day 36/366.....I Voted," by Flickr user Denise Cross Photography. Used under CC BY 2.0. Cropped and overlaid with text.

Prop V is known as "the soda tax" and "the grocery tax," but on the ballot it’s “the tax on distributing sugar-sweetened beverages.” Okay, so what’s a "sugar-sweetened beverage?"

Under Prop V, that includes things like a cup of Coke you fill up at a soda fountain, or an energy drink. Things that aren’t included are diet sodas, juice, or anything that will get you drunk.

The tax is one cent per ounce. So that’s like 12-cents per can of root beer. The tax would not necessarily be added on to your purchase at the cash register like a sales tax. This tax is paid for by distributors. They’re the people who sell these drinks to stores, and they could choose to pay for the tax however they want, including passing on the costs to markets who could pass on the costs to drink-buyers.

Supporters include Mayor Ed Lee, the American Heart Association, and the NAACP. They say taxing these drinks will lead to fewer people drinking them. Since these beverages can lead to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, proponents frame this as a public health measure. They’ve raised more than $6 million dollars.

The beverage industry does not like taxes like these. They’ve put in almost $19 million dollars to help fight Prop V. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association and some grocery store owners don’t like it either. They say they don’t want to raise prices. Also, opponents call the tax regressive, meaning that it affects the poor a lot more than those with money.

If this all sounds familiar, that might be because a similar proposition was on the ballot two years ago. It got over half of the vote but failed because it needed two thirds. The current proposition only needs 50% to pass though.

So a "yes" vote on Prop V means a new one cent per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages for distributors. A "no" vote means no tax, and no change.

Citizen respondents to KALW's elections call-out contributed to this post. Our call-outs are part of our community reporting project.

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.