City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

February 15, 2011
Sacramento councilman: Let's explore a city soda tax

Councilman Kevin McCarty wants the city to look into taxing soda and using the revenue to fund recreational programs for young people.

Such a tax would likely need to go to the voters for approval, McCarty said. He doesn't know how much of a tax should be levied on soda.

Unlike other cities and states that have tried - and failed - to enact soda taxes, McCarty said he doesn't want such a revenue generator in Sacramento to help solve full-scale budget problems. Instead, he said he'd like to see the money go to city-run recreational programs such as summer and after-school youth leagues and to help fund city employees working in recreational programs at schools.

"I want to look at if there is something we can do to expand our programs knowing we have this problem (of childhood obesity)," he said.

A 2009 report by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy found that obesity costs the state $41 billion a year, including $20 billion in lost worker productivity. And McCarty said childhood obesity rates have tripled nationwide in the past 25 years.

The soda tax is part of a broader initiative McCarty is working on to combat child obesity in the city. Look for more details on his plan in tomorrow's Bee.

McCarty's proposal - whether it takes off or not - is sure to be met with opposition.

The powerful American Beverage Association released a statement in December saying "taxes do not make people healthier" and that soda taxes amount to "a money grab to pay for a government that is already too expensive and too involved in (taxpayers') personal lives."

Soda taxes have mostly failed to take hold. A 2009 proposal in San Francisco was eventually tabled and voters in Washington state repealed a soda tax last year.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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