California soda tax proposal shelved while lawmaker vows to try again next year

A proposed California soda tax is dead for the year after the lawmaker running the bill announced Monday it’s being held in committee for the rest of 2019.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom said his proposed 2 cent per fluid ounce tax on sugary drinks will become a “two-year bill,” meaning it could be taken up again next year.

“While this is not the outcome I had hoped for, (Assembly Bill) 138 remains alive in the legislative process, albeit on a slower track,” the Santa Monica Democrat said in a statement. “This delay is unfortunate because, with the health outcomes of millions of Californians at stake, there is no time to lose.”

The soda industry cheered the development. A soda tax would hurt Californians already struggling with the state’s high living costs, American Beverage Association spokesman Steve Maviglio said.

“We are glad the legislature delayed action,” Maviglio said in a statement. “California’s voters oppose a beverage tax which would be an unfair burden on working families, neighborhood businesses and employees.”

Lawmakers last year begrudgingly agreed to ban on local soda taxes under pressure from the beverage industry. After then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed that bill, the California Business Roundtable dropped a ballot measure primarily funded by soda companies that would have hindered cities and counties from raising any taxes.

At the time, lawmakers blasted the industry for using the ballot initiative process as a weapon to protect their profits.

“This industry is aiming a nuclear weapon at government in California and saying, ‘If you don’t do what we want we are going to pull the trigger and you are not going to be able to fund basic government services,’” Sen. Scott Wiener, Democrat-San Francisco, said at the time.

Bloom introduced the statewide soda tax bill several months later. He says he plans to pursue it again next year.