EL MONTE, Calif. (UPI) — The mayor of El Monte, Calif., said soda companies came out of their corner swinging to oppose a ballot initiative to tax sugary beverages.
Originally believing the tax on soft drinks would be met with voter approval and provide an easy $7 million for the city’s budget, soft drink companies came out in force to oppose the ballot referendum, spending $1.3 million to lobby against the measure while the city spent $57,000 to promote it, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
The city’s sales pitch is based on the obesity and diabetes that are associated with sugary drinks.
But the city is now blanketed with “No on Measure H” signs as the industry has brought in seasoned consultants who are out to convince residents the cost of hundreds of drinks would jump if the tax was to pass.
There are 500 drinks — everything from chocolate milk to Red Bull — listed on a Web site promoting opposition to the tax, which would add a penny to every ounce of “sugar-sweetened” drinks.
Opposition groups have targeted various cultures specifically, showing a Latino woman complaining about the added cost to chocolate milk while an Asian woman complains of the price for “boba milk tea,” that would go up.
Mayor Andre Quintero said he thought he had a referendum that couldn’t fail, but now believes it will fail at the polls.
“What they’re trying to do is not just defeat this measure, they’re trying to obliterate it, so that no elected official ever again considers putting something like this on the ballot,” Quintero said.
That defeat includes the city spends promoting the referendum, which could end up as money they cannot recoup and the simple risk to politicians.
“A lot of people are saying to me, ‘You know this will be the end of your political career,'” Quintero said.