El Monte Wants Citizens' Sugar Addiction to Pay for Its Spending Addiction


Here's a neat trick by city leaders: Combine a Nanny State attitude toward your citizens' life choices with your unwillingness to seriously deal with your city's expenses and see what happens. In El Monte, Calif., an L.A. County community with a population of 120,000, City Council is proposing a sales tax on sugary drinks. Via the Pasadena Star News:

Don't stop and think about the risks inherent in using revenue from consumpion you're also trying to stop to balance your budget.

El Monte could become one of the first cities in the country to tax sugary beverages—a move leaders have proposed to save city coffers more than city waistlines.

Local voters will decide in November if they want the city to levy a tax on businesses selling sodas and other "sugar-sweetened beverages" following a unanimous City Council vote on Tuesday that puts the initiative on the ballot.

The move came packaged with a resolution declaring a fiscal emergency in El Monte—a requirement to justify holding a special election for the general tax measure.

If voters agree to charge businesses one cent for every ounce of sugary drinks they sell, it could translate into up to $7 million a year for the city of 120,000 residents, according to staff estimates.

Yes, that's a cent for every ounce. That would give a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda a 10 to 15 percent price increase (or higher) depending on the retail charge.

El Monte, like most other cities, is dealing with rising employee costs and dropping tax revenues. Like San Bernardino, it has deferred staff salary increases in bad times rather than killing them and now they're coming due. A sales tax increase that already puts El Monte at a higher rate than the rest of the county is set to expire in 2014. The city's finance director, though, said the city isn't facing bankruptcy.

That the tax increase is an obvious revenue grab doesn't stop them from also giving Nanny State lectures about those awful, awful sodas:

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, roughly 28 percent of children and adults in El Monte are classified as obese.

Several local residents told personal anecdotes about how diabetes and other health problems related to poor eating habits had affected their lives.

"As public officials, we have a moral imperative to address issues that are hurting and killing our community," said Adam Carranza, a Mountain View School District board member.

Really, guys, do we have to put with both? If you're going to come begging the community for money to keep lining your public employees' pockets, can you not lecture them about their drinking habits at the same time? Also, you know, maybe don't make your budget-balancing dependent on consumption you are also trying to reduce?