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Members of D.C. Clergy Wary of Proposed ‘Soda Tax’

In reference to the proposed “Soda Tax” bill that was presented in March to the D.C. Council, Kip Banks, pastor of the East Washington Heights Baptist Church in Southeast, along with more than 70 other members of the local clergy recently stated in a letter to The Informer that given its economic impact and health effects on their congregants, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over.

Chief among the clergys’ concerns is that if the Nutrition Equity Bill was passed, it would place a .015-cent-per-ounce excise tax any on sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks, and that, for example, the price for 12-pack of Coke would go up over $2.

“That is one reason why D.C. Council members should not be proposing to add insult to injury and pursue legislation to raise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages,” Banks wrote. “Scores of D.C.’s local businesses have closed, and many local shop owners have laid off employees to keep their stores afloat. Yet the D.C. Council is looking to raise taxes on the very businesses and front-line grocery, restaurant, and food workers that risked their own health over the past year to make food and beverages readily available to us and our neighbors.

“This tax won’t accomplish that,” he said. “What it will do is make it harder for poor, struggling families to make it in this city by adding to their grocery bills and specifically their beverages. Taxes on groceries are regressive, because the  lower the household income means a bigger share of their paycheck on these items.”

Banks added that proposing an increase is not only unfair but lacks empathy for what communities in the District are already dealing with.

Supporters claim that the new legislation will discourageresidents from buying sugary drinks and make healthier options, especially in low-income neighborhoods in northeast and southeast D.C., where obesity and diabetes are diagnosed at high rates, according to Banks’ letter.

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