Santa Cruz considers soda tax to help pay for city deficit

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Soon it might be a few more cents a pop. Officials are considering putting a two penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks for Santa Cruz, a city that's already pretty health-conscious.

"Once in a while, I just had my annual Sprite," resident Gina Grega said.

A recent survey of 500 people seemed to support that.

"The poll on the sugary beverage tax polled at 78 percent," City Manager Martin Bernal said.

But the tax is not exactly for health reasons.

"We predict a deficit of about $5 million next year and it grows to about $20 million in 2023, which is a very similar forecast many cities have," Bernal said.

As many cities across the country face deficits driven by increasing costs and slow revenue growth, a soda tax seems to be a win-win solution, but for some, it doesn't seem like a permanent one. 

"What happens when those revenues dry up?” resident Cary Connoloy asked.

This could be an answer: tax the meat.    

"The environmental devastation caused by factory farming and by raising animals for food probably outweighs, you know, the negatives of soda," Grega said.

But for now, the city wants all the help it can get and that also includes possibly bumping up its sales tax from 9 to 9.25 percent.

"It would generate approximately, on the sales tax, it would generate about $3 million a year. On the sugary beverage tax, between $1-$2 million," Bernal said.

The city council met Tuesday night to discuss tax measures.

A decision on whether to put these items on the June ballot will be decided at the next meeting Feb 27.

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