SANTA FE – Mayor Javier Gonzales’ proposal to impose a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to fund an early childhood education program in the city cleared another hurdle Monday when it was approved by the City Council’s Finance Committee. The next stop now is the full council, which at its March 8 meeting will consider whether to put the question to voters who would ultimately decide in a special election in early May.
The Finance Committee’s approval came the same day that mailers supporting the proposal arrived in mailboxes in City Council districts 2 and 4 urging constituents to contact Councilors Joseph Maestas and Ron Trujillo, and tell them “let Santa Feans VOTE this spring!” The mailers – an unusual political move in Santa Fe for an issues debate – included the councilors’ phone numbers and email addresses.
Maestas announced last week he will be introducing a resolution, co-sponsored by Trujillo, to delay the public vote on the soda tax until the regular city elections in March 2018. The May special election would cost $70,000-$100,000.
The mailers were sent by Pre-K for Santa Fe, a political action committee supporting the mayor’s plan. “Councilors Trujillo and Maestas tried to put an enormous roadblock for pre-K, and we wanted to let people in their districts know and ask them why,” said political consultant Sandra Wechsler of Pre-K for Santa Fe. “At the end of the day, you can’t support pre-K without an immediate funding source.”
Maestas, who is not a member of the Finance Committee, but attended Monday’s meeting, didn’t mention the mailer, but said his presence demonstrated his support for the proposed pre-K plan, despite his proposal to delay putting it before the voters. He has said there too many unanswered questions about the plan, including whether the city can legally impose a soda tax to pay private pre-K providers.
Trujillo did not attend Monday’s meeting. He previously said he supports early childhood education, but objects to how the beverage tax would affect local businesses and families. Reached by phone Monday night, Trujillo said he had received a considerable number of emails and phone calls from constituents as a result of the mailer. But he said he’s also received considerable support from people “who are thankful I am standing up for what I believe in and what they believe in, as well.”