There’s a headline you probably never thought you’d see, right? California is the land of massive taxes on virtually anything which can be taxed. It’s currently led by Governor Jerry Brown, a man who’s never seen a tax he didn’t like, and yet he signed a ten-year ban on new soda taxes. At first glance, this seems like a remarkable story. Soda taxes have become a beloved concept in blue states over the past decade. Democrats advertise them as plans to reduce sugar consumption, fight obesity, improve health and all manner of wonderful curealls for fat, lazy Americans. In reality, they are blatant cash-grabs designed to pump more money into municipal coffers while actually driving shoppers out of the district, harming small businesses and low-income residents the most.
So good for Governor Brown, right? He’s finally seen the light and decided to end this odious practice. Well… not really. Reading into the details you’ll find this was a desperation move aimed at preventing the voters from really taking a bite out of their tax bills. (The Hill)
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law on Thursday a measure banning cities from passing taxes on soda for more than a decade.
The measure was a last-minute compromise to stop an initiative circulated by the beverage industry that would make it more difficult to raise state and local taxes in California.
“Mayors from countless cities have called to voice their alarm and to strongly support the compromise which this bill represents,” Brown wrote in a signing message.
Four cities in California have moved in recent years to raise taxes on soda and other sugary beverages in an effort to combat diabetes, heart disease and other weight-related health issues.
After several municipalities passed crippling beverage taxes, the soda industry came up with a clever way to fight back. They began shopping around a new ballot initiative which, if passed, would require 75% approval for any new state or municipal taxes, making it far less likely that any new taxes would be added to the books. That initiative was quickly gaining popularity, so the state was pretty much forced to agree to a ban on new soda taxes in exchange for killing the 75% measure.
This “compromise” helps nobody. The cities with the new soda taxes are still stuck with them and the door is open for more tax hikes to come. For that matter, as long as the legislature can sneak taxes through with a simple majority, there are never enough GOP votes to block them. That’s how they wound up with the outrageous gas tax increase which is about to be repealed by referendum.
California voters should wise up and cut to the root of the problem rather than nibbling around the edges. You can keep allowing your taxes to be increased, forcing you to spend more of the state’s budget on repeal initiatives if you wish. Or you could stop electing people who constantly raise your taxes. You have the ability to hold them accountable. People are fleeing the state because it’s simply too expensive for working class people to live in any of the areas that aren’t deserts. (Well, it’s all a desert in the south, but they pipe water into the cities.)
In the meantime, don’t be fooled by the headlines you are seeing. Jerry Brown didn’t sign that bill to protect you from higher taxes. He signed it to make sure they could keep raising the rest of your taxes.