Council responds to mayor’s attempt to redirect funds for public health to close the city’s budget.
The City Council’s Life Enrichment Committee on Tuesday approved a proposal by Councilmembers Annie Campbell-Washington and Rebecca Kaplan to ensure funds from Oakland’s sweetened beverage tax are appropriately spent.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s budget proposal for 2017-19 was met with criticism when it attempted to allocate funds accumulated from the sweetened beverage tax to close the city’s budget deficit.
Measure HH, a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, was passed by 61 percent of Oakland voters in the November 2016 election.
The measure was expected to generate $10 million annually in revenue, to be spent on health education and children’s health initiatives. Measure HH also created a nine-member advisory board tasked with reporting to the City Council their recommendations for spending.
This week’s proposal designates a sub-fund within the City’s general fund group for the sweetened beverage tax revenue, to be used only for the health-related purposes originally intended by the measure.
Campbell Washington, Kaplan, and Desley Brooks are united in wanting to keep faith with the voters when spending soda tax revenue.
“It’s important that we keep the faith with the voters as well as with the dedicated community volunteers who’ve stepped up to serve on the community advisory board,” Kaplan said at the Life Enrichment Meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13. “I hope we will all vote yes on it so that it is totally clear to people that we are doing what we told the voters we would do.”
The proposal was approved by the committee, and will be heard at City Council in the coming weeks.
According to the recent proposal, Measure HH had clear expected impacts: to raise awareness, raise revenue, and reduce consumption. It aims to inform the public about how sugary drinks impact health.
It also clarifies that the health programs for which Measure HH was designed should specifically combat the impact of sugary drink marketing by educating families about healthy eating and drinking.
In the long term, these programs are expected to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage, thereby reducing or preventing deadly diseases and saving billions of dollars in health care costs.