‘Sugary Drink Tax’ Going to Portland Voters

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — A proposed ballot initiative could make Portland, Oregon, the third high-profile city in the country to put a special tax on sugary drinks.
     The nonprofit Upstream Public Health proposed Portland’s ballot initiative in June. It would tax sugary drinks such as soda and sports drinks at a penny per ounce, to fund public health initiatives such as physical education and early education for low-income families in Multnomah County.
     The tax “is the ideal way to fund these critical initiatives, because it will reduce the consumption of empty calories which are linked to diabetes, heart disease and other conditions,” said Mel Rader, executive director of Upstream Public Health, who filed a petition for review of ballot title and explanatory statement against Multnomah County on June 28.
     Philadelphia imposed a tax on sweetened drinks this year, becoming the biggest U.S. city to do so. Berkeley, Calif. passed a sugary drink tax in 2014.
     Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg funded the soda tax campaign in Philadelphia, and news services have reported that he plans to fund similar campaigns on the West Coast.
     The Portland initiative is similar to those in Philadelphia and Berkeley, Rader said, but differs in its proposal to create “an advisory committee made up of community members, health experts and education experts to make recommendations on funding.”
     He said he was confident that Multnomah County voters would approved the initiative.
     Rader said he sued the county in Multnomah County court because “we found some technical issues that we wanted to correct and so we put in a challenge to get things right.”
     Rader added in an interview that he expected that “the soda industry will spend a considerable amount of money trying to defeat it.”
     In Philadelphia, the American Beverage Association spent $5 million on ads against the soda tax initiative, citing the effect the tax would have on grocery bills
     Not all the opposition has come from industries with a financial interest in sugary drinks.
     Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called Philadelphia’s soda tax “totally regressive.”
     “At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when the wealthy are getting wealthier, many of them pay an effective tax rate lower than working people,” Sanders said on Meet the Press in April, during his unexpectedly strong campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.
     “Somebody’s making $20,000 a year and they buy a bottle of soda, I don’t think you charge them 30 cents more for that bottle of soda,” Sanders said.

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