When it comes to discouraging lawmakers from raising taxes on sugary drinks, Big Soda sure know how to sweeten the pot. A California Healthline investigation has found that state and local officials received millions in everything from campaign contributions to basketball games and Black Panther movie tickets from lobbyists seeking to stop tax hikes on sugar-laden drinks.
The soft drink industry spent $11.8 million on these efforts between 2017 and 2018. It appears to have worked. As City News reported previously, state lawmakers passed a bill last year that bans local soda taxes until 2031. In exchange, the beverage industry dropped a ballot proposal that would have made it harder for local governments to levy new taxes.
But there is already pushback. Some politicians are reviving calls for a statewide soda tax and regulations on where sodas can be sold. Meanwhile, legislation requiring warning labels on high calorie beverages is moving swiftly through Sacramento.
As lawmakers seek to rein Big Soda in, they’ll be fighting an army of influencers with friends in high places and a cache of unlimited resources.