El Monte residents to vote on soda tax

El Monte residents will vote on  Measure “H” on the Nov. 6 ballot, which will establish a business license fee that will be imposed on each EI Monte business that serves or provides sugar sweetened beverages at a rate of one cent per fluid ounce.

For example, a can of Pepsi would cost 12 cents more than usual in El Monte than elsewhere and a 12-pack of Mountain Dew $1.44 more.

Proponents of the business license fee believe this measure will reduce the intake of sugar sweetened beverages by its residents. In return, this will help reduce obesity and the related health problems and medical costs.

“We’re trying to find a way to solve two public policy objectives. One: To raise revenue for the community. And two: To be able to put a tax on products that have been shown to be linked to obesity,” said El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero.

El Monte has the ninth highest rate of childhood overweight and obesity out of 250 cities in California, according to a recent study released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

If this measure passes in November, El Monte becomes the second city in California, after Richmond (Measure N), to propose taxing soda and other sugary drinks as a way to take a stand on their childhood obesity crisis.

El Monte residents could end up paying taxes on hundreds of grocery products like sodas, aguas frescas, bubble teas, sweetened teas, sports drinks and energy drinks.

According to opponents to the measure, an approach of this kind will only create more problems. El Monte’s small business owners will suffer. People will avoid the tax by going to nearby cities to buy all of their groceries. With the price of gas and food costs on the rise, there could not be a worse time to ask families to pay more.

“We’ve asked our customers what they are going to do if the measure does pass,” said Erica Hadjis, whose family has owned El Sombrero restaurant in El Monte for 46 years. “Why [wouldn’t] they just go to our sister city, which is Temple City, and buy something from Temple City?”