Boulderites Voted For A Soda Tax. Now What?

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Photo: Soda Wall At Rocket Fizz, Pearl Street Boulder | Flickr-CC
Sodas on display at the Rocket Fizz candy and soda shop on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall.

Following the example set by Berkley, California, voters in Boulder, Colorado gave their blessing to a soda tax.

As Sarah Huntley, Boulder’s deputy director of communications, noted, “It’s not unusual for the city of Boulder to be among the first cities to try new things.”

Out of the more than 60,000 votes cast on the tax, Boulder’s Ballot Issue 2H passed 53.90 percent to 46.10 percent. Berkley’s soda tax was approved in 2014 and three other California cities and Cook County, Illinois joined Boulder in approving 2016 soda taxes. City leaders in Boulder now have a lot of work to do before the new voter-approved tax on soda and other sugary drinks takes effect.

Boulder’s soda tax is the steepest at two cents per ounce. Specifics must now be determined on how to administer the tax, how to calculate and collect, and how much money it will bring in. That sounds like a lot to figure out in just a few months.

“This was something that citizens put together, requested a chance to vote on and have approved,” Huntley said. “But that means that a lot of the work that goes in to advance the ballot initiative, trying to determine exactly how a program would work, has not yet occurred.”

Interview Highlights With Sarah Huntley

On The Intention And Use Of The New Tax

“It was not ever intended to be a revenue generating tax for the sake of generating revenue. It had this sort of social underpinning of wanting to provide for a healthier environment. Many of the provision of what we can spend money on are linked to that end goal.”

What About Boulder’s Reputation For Being Healthy And Active?

“One of the concerns always has to do with under-represented groups. Whether they have access to healthy foods and healthy lifestyles. There’s definitely an interest in making sure that this impacts them in a positive way, rather than a negative way.”

On What’s Next Ahead Of The July 2017 Implementation Of The Tax

“The city manager has requested a report from the staff group that is going to be working on this to come to council no later than the beginning of April. They’re going to aim for the beginning of March, to allow for the most public conversation possible.”

Read More: Boulder Passed The Nation's Steepest Soda Tax; Now, To Implement It (via Daily Camera)