Statewide SSB Tax Ballot Initiative Cleared for Circulation, LAO Issues Analysis

On Thursday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra cleared for circulation the ballot initiative proposal by the California Medical Association (CMA) and California Dental Association (CDA) that would establish a statewide tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). The initiative would create a fund for public health programs to prevent, treat, and research obesity, diabetes, dental diseases, and other diseases linked to SSBs, as well as increase access to healthy food and drinks. The tax would consist of $0.02 per fluid ounce of SSB and specified beverages—such as milk, juice, infant formula, medical beverages, and low-sugar drinks—would be exempted.

As part of the circulation approval, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) issued an analysis of the proposal, anticipating annual revenues of $2 billion to $3 billion by 2022-23. Revenues would be spent in the following ways:

  • 82 percent for Health Care: Funds would be spent on existing programs for prevention and treatment of medical and dental diseases linked to SSBs.
  • 12 percent for Disease Prevention: Funds would be used to support programs that seek to reduce SSB consumption and prevent SSB-linked diseases.
  • 3 percent for Access to Health Foods and Water: Funds would pay for improving access to fruit, vegetables, and clean drinking water.
  • 3 percent for Research: Funds would support research on diseases linked to SSBs.

Proponents must gather 585,407 signatures by March 4, 2019, for the measure to appear on the 2020 ballot.