Pause Wanted on D.C. Soda Tax Proposal

D.C. Council member Jack Evans wants hearing on details before vote

By Teneille Gibson
|  Tuesday, May 4, 2010  |  Updated 9:00 AM EDT
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Pause Wanted on D.C. Soda Tax Proposal

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The D.C. soda tax could be derailed.

The momentum to approve a soda tax may be brought to a halt. D.C. Council member Jack Evans, chairman of the Committee on Finance & Revenue, wants his committee to hold a hearing on a proposed soda tax before a final vote, the Washington Post reported.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) wants the District to approve a penny-per-ounce soda tax for her new healthier school lunch standards.

Under Cheh’s proposal, the city tax on all canned and bottled soda would generate about $16 million annually. Cheh needs 6 million of that money to help the schools implement the new healthier student breakfasts and lunches spelled out in the healthy schools bill. The remaining $10 million would help the city close its budget shortfall. Cheh was hoping that the soda tax, which adds $1.44 to the cost of a 12-pack of Coke cans, could be approved as part of the 2011 budget that the council will approve late in May.

But Evans has other ideas. “I don’t want my colleagues circumventing the Finance Committee,” he told the Post. “We need to have a hearing on all of this and get the facts out.”

Evans used a previous snack food tax that was repealed as an example, because it caused confusion with retailers over what items should be taxed.

Similar soda taxes have been discussed other areas this spring, including New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  In the Pennsylvania cities, officials have proposed 2 cents-per-ounce taxes.  The New York proposal was for a penny per ounce.

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