Berkeley soda tax brings in more than $100K in 1st month

BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) - When Berkeley voters passed the first ever soda tax in the U.S. last year, city leaders weren't sure how much money the tax would bring in.

Now, the City of Berkeley announced it took in $116,000 in soda tax money for the month of March when the tax first took effect.

The city is also projecting that over the next year it will take in $1.2 million.

"We're thrilled with it. We really are," said Berkeley Vice-Mayor Linda Maio.

At Sam's Market on Berkeley's busy Telegraph Avenue, the owner says despite the city's new soda tax, he still sells a lot of drinks with sugar.

But he has noticed a change. Since the one cent per ounce tax on all sugary drinks was implemented, he's been selling more diet drinks than before and fewer bulk items.

"12-packs, no. Too expensive. You have to add $1.44. Two liters you have to add 68 cents," said owner Mike Ayadd.

That's the trend many city leaders were hoping for when voters became the first in the country to pass a soda tax. San Francisco tried and failed.

The Dollar Tree in Berkeley has since stopped selling all sugary drinks and several chain restaurants, including McDonald's, have taken soda off its children's menu.

A panel of health experts will recommend where the money will go. But Berkeley's public school nutrition program will get a large portion to help fight against childhood obesity and diabetes.

"In addition to that were the community programs for nutritional foods in areas of Berkeley that really don't have access to good quality healthy foods," said Maio.

Opponents argue the tax hurts low income people the most.

Supporters say they hope someday to collect no taxes. That will mean no one is drinking sugary beverages.