Assemblymember Chiu Statement on Soda Tax Deal

For immediate release:

Assemblymember David Chiu (D - San Francisco) today issued the following statement regarding AB 1838 and SB 872:

“It is with great disappointment and disgust that I have to cast a vote for AB 1838 and SB 872 today.  Politics often comes down to impossible choices, and today was no exception.

The sugar-sweetened beverage industry proposed a measure for the November statewide ballot that would greatly hamstring the ability of all local governments to raise any new taxes, including new soda taxes. Considering the enormous amount of money the beverage industry would spend in favor of the initiative, its passage was widely considered a certainty and would cripple the ability of governments large and small to provide the most basic services for all Californians.

The beverage industry agreed to pull its measure off the ballot in exchange for a twelve year moratorium on new local soda taxes.  When faced with the terrible choice of eliminating the ability of local governments to raise any new funding indefinitely or eliminating possible local soda taxes until 2030, I had to choose the latter.  

I have long been a supporter of soda taxes and was an ardent champion of the local soda tax measure that passed in my city of San Francisco.  While today’s bills have no impact on San Francisco’s soda tax, I am under no illusions that our vote in the Legislature is anything but a setback for the broader movement.  In the future, I look forward to working with my colleagues to champion a statewide solution that reduces the impact of soda on record levels of childhood obesity and diabetes.

I am no stranger to the underhanded tactics of Big Soda.  In my first race for the Assembly, tens of thousands of dollars of soda industry money poured in to oppose my election.  Big Soda has made it an industry practice to hold governments and voters hostage in its pursuit of profit that threatens our children’s health.

Today is also a stark reminder that California’s ballot initiative process serves special interests far more often than it serves the people of our state.  When an industry with unlimited resources can leverage the threat of a ballot measure to get the Legislature to do what it wants, the industry is committing extortion by ballot measure.  It is clear to me that reforming this process must be a top priority for our state in the coming years.”