By Lloyd Madden,
One of the best-kept secrets by the folks behind the “soda tax” is that it taxes a lot more than soda sales.
According to a list prepared by researchers for the No on N campaign, also known as the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, the count of products to be subject to the proposed tax on businesses selling sugar-sweetened beverages now exceeds 700—including many staples like certain juices, chocolate milks, sports drinks, infant formulas and adult nutritional supplements like Ensure.
“Whenever Councilman Jeff Ritterman talks about Measure N, he goes right after the big soda companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi, demonizing them as the main culprit behind the obesity crisis in this country,” said Chuck Finnie, spokesman for the No on N campaign.
“He knows it isn’t true, but one of his real objectives is to draw attention away from what the Measure N tax really says, the products it covers and consequences for Richmond families and small businesses,” Finnie said.
In contrast to popular belief—a belief fostered by Ritterman and his allies—Measure N is not a sales or excise tax on the purchase of a can, bottle or cup of soda.
Rather, it is a proposed new business license tax on Richmond markets, stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other entertainment venues that trade in any beverage containing an added “caloric sweetener suitable for human consumption that humans perceive as sweet and includes, without limitation, sucrose, fructose, glucose, other sugars, and fruit juice concentrates.”
That comes right out of the Measure N ordinance appearing on the ballot this fall. And that means it covers a heck of a lot more than soda sales. We are talking about any beverage sweetened with any form of added sugar.
What does that mean for consumers? Both sides agree local business will pass along the tax—equal to one penny per ounce of covered beverages sold—in the form of higher prices.
What is unclear is whether those price hikes will be limited to the 700 or so products specifically covered by the tax or whether Richmond businesses will just pass along the cost of the tax generally in price increases on everything.
Either way, everybody is likely to face Measure N price hikes, if the ballot measure passes on Nov. 6. And the hikes won’t be limited to just soda drinkers.
Lloyd Madden is president of Black American Political Action Committee (BAPAC).