Bloomberg backs S.F., Oakland soda taxes

Former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg will fund soda tax campaigns in cities across the country after Philadelphia’s City Council successfully passed a tax last week.

Bloomberg, who ponied up $1.6 million for Philadelphia’s soda tax campaign, plans to support efforts in San Francisco and Oakland this year and possibly in Seattle and Portland’s Multnomah County next year, an adviser to Bloomberg told the Bloomberg news agency.

In what was dubbed an “historic event,” the Philadelphia City Council last Thursday voted 13-4 for a 1.5 cent-per ounce tax on sugary drinks and diet beverages. The measure is expected to raise more than $90 million for the nation’s fifth largest city and will be used to help pay for prekindergarten, community schools and recreation centers.

Supporters cheer as the Philadelphia City Council passes a soda tax, the first of its kind in a large American city, June 16, 2016. Advocates say their win here presages more such measures around the country; the soda industry says their loss here despite a $5 million lobbying effort was due to the city’s politics and won’t be repeated elsewhere. (Jessica Kourkounis/The New York Times)

Supporters cheer as the Philadelphia City Council passes a soda tax, the first of its kind in a large American city. (Jessica Kourkounis/The New York Times)

It was a blow to the beverage industry, led by Atlanta-based soft drink giant Coke. The industry has successfully fought back more than 30 proposals in cities and states across the country in recent years, including a Bloomberg backed initiative in 2012 to restrict the size of soft drinks in movie theaters, delis and restaurants. The industry is expected to sue.

But soda tax proponents have had a couple of wins, too. Mexico passed a tax in 2014 and Berkeley, Calif., passed a 1-cent tax last year.

Howard Wolfson, the Bloomberg adviser, told the news agency, “If Berkeley was a tremor, Philadelphia is an earthquake, and we expect there will be more earthquakes going forward.”

 

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