Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Measure H: El Monte soda tax fizzes out in face of $1.3 million opposition campaign

An El Monte City Council proposal to add a penny-per-ounce tax to sweetened beverages appeared headed to failure Tuesday night after the beverage industry spent at least $1.3 million to defeat it.

Planning Commissioner Art Barrios, a local advocate for defeating Measure H, said the City Council and Mayor Andre Quintero miscalculated the tax's appeal and mislabeled it from the start.

"I think it was an ill-conceived ballot issue," Barrios said. "They brought it out as an anti-obesity measure, but that's not what it was. It was strictly for revenue generation."

With 84 percent of the count tallied, more than 76 percent of voters turned down the tax.

Quintero cited national and local statistics on health and obesity in arguing that the tax on sweetened drinks was similar to taxes on liquor and tobacco by raising revenue to help health programs.

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El Monte Measure H soda tax proposal draws $1.3 million response from beverage industry

No on Measure H campaign video

No on Measure H website

The American Beverage Association has put $1.3 million into the campaign to oppose Measure H, a proposed penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened drinks sold in the city of El Monte. This image is from a campaign video, depicting the charge that would be imposed on a gallon jug of sweetened juice drink.

The modest campaign for El Monte's Measure H, a proposal to add a penny-per-ounce tax to soda sales, is drowning in a deluge of ads paid for by the soft drink industry.

The American Beverage Association, which represents the soft drink industry, has spent some $1.3 million to oppose the tax issue the El Monte City Council placed on the Nov. 6 ballot in hopes of balancing the city budget and fund anti-crime and wellness program.

Mayor Andre Quintero said he expects more to be spent in the week remaining before the Nov. 6 election.

"They're spending it on everything," he said. "Every single imaginable tool you can imagine in a campaign arsenal, they have. They have paid walkers, paid callers, they've got a campaign manager, they've got billboards, signs, literature in the mail, polls, tracking polls."

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