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Post-election Soda Tax Commentary

Editor’s Note: In lieu of letters to the editor, Journal North presents post-election statements from supporters and opponents of the tax on sugary drinks that was voted down in Tuesday’s special election in Santa Fe. The tax would have supported an effort to create 1,000 new spaces in pre-kindergarten programs at free or affordable rates. The statements were issued Tuesday night and Wednesday.


MAYOR JAVIER GONZALES, WHO PROPOSED THE TAX-FOR-PRE-K PLAN: From the beginning, for everyone involved in advocating for this effort, this has been about our commitment to Santa Fe’s children, about living up to our duty to provide them and every passing generation of Santa Feans after them with a better future and a brighter inheritance.

For too long, our leaders have stood by, or worse, stood in the way, blocking proposals that would have stopped the slide our state seems stuck in and lived up to what we owe the next generation.

I put this forward because I see thousands of Santa Fe children start their lives behind the curve, and I simply can’t stand aside and do nothing when the possibility to act and act decisively is right there in front of us.

If one thing was clear in this debate, it is that there is overwhelming support for finding a way to make sure every child in Santa Fe and in New Mexico can go as far as their dreams will take them. We may not all agree on how we get there, but that’s okay, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Now we get back to work, knowing that we have far more in common than the things that have long divided us.

I’m here to tell you it’s never been more important. Our state is struggling and there are a lot of ideas out there about how to correct it. But the one thing I know to be true is that whatever we do, it has to start with doing better by our kids.

No matter your point of view, I respect every voice that was raised and every vote that was cast in this election, and of course we honor the decision the people of Santa Fe have made. As a public official, you can never go wrong listening to the voices of the people you serve.

Our commitment, my commitment, to Santa Fe’s children will only grow stronger moving forward. Because there are still 1,000 kids out there in my community who won’t get the start they need, and that cannot stand. So let us make a commitment here, all of us, no matter how you voted tonight, to keep working, keep striving, keep pushing to find ways to lift them up to the future they deserve.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF NEW MEXICO: Santa Fe voters made the right choice today. This tax would have hurt local businesses and working families while doing nothing to increase access to healthier beverage options. The Santa Fe County Republican Party worked tirelessly to defeat this misguided tax hike with phone calls, letters to the editor, and research showcasing why Mayor Gonzales’ proposal was wrong for Santa Fe. We hope that the defeat of this tax plan will allow Santa Fe’s government to seek better solutions on nutrition and child care.

THE ARCHDIOCESE OF SANTA FE: This is a sad day for the future of New Mexico’s young children. Early childhood programs remain unfunded.

We congratulate Santa Fe for elevating the issue of child well-being to the forefront and thank proponents for their earnest work. The May 2 vote on the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax” has brought New Mexico’s startling statistics to the public square. We are currently ranked 49th in child well-being, number one in the highest number of children living in poverty and have the second-highest rate of children living in hunger in the USA. This effort is so critical and we encourage the City of Santa Fe to continue to seek remedies and solutions for funding early childhood programs because the unmet need for these state programs continues to be $406 million.

We take the opposition at their word for “finding a better way.” For seven years, a proposal has been made to New Mexico’s state legislators to fund early childhood programs from the Land Grant Permanent Fund, which is not a tax. This proposal is a call for New Mexico’s senators to vote for the passage of the Constitutional Amendment for early childhood education.

BETTER WAY FOR SANTA FE & PRE-K, WHICH OPPOSED THE SUGARY DRINKS TAX: Today, the people of Santa Fe stood up to say we can fund our city’s priorities without making it even harder for working-class families. People saw through the political agenda of outside forces who wanted to impose an unfair tax at the expense of middle-class families and small-business people in Santa Fe.

Our coalition of local businesses and community organizations remains united in support of expanded pre-K, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the city and community to find better ways to fund this much-needed program.

NANCY BROWN, AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION CEO: We are disappointed in the outcome of today’s vote on the sugary drink tax in Santa Fe. We believe the voters and business owners would never have been divided on such a simple issue if they were told the truth, but the beverage industries’ deep pockets, false claims and deceptive tactics prevailed. Once again, the beverage industry has shown that it is more concerned with its financial health than the health of children and families.

We applaud Mayor Gonzales, members of the city council and residents who fought for children’s education and improved community health. Sugary drink tax funding would have enabled an additional 1,000 children to attend high-quality pre-K programs. It would have added nearly 200 early education jobs and provided $3.30 in benefits to the community for every $1 generated from the tax.

The American Heart Association will continue to support taxes on sugary drinks because of their positive impact on people’s health and well-being. Research shows that such taxes reduce consumption of unhealthy beverages in favor of water. Taxes in Mexico and Berkeley, Calif., have led to beneficial health impacts without hurting local businesses and customer sales.

Despite recent declines in traditional soda sales, consumption of other sugary drinks, such as fruit drinks, sports drinks and sweetened teas, has increased. Sugary drinks are the top source of added sugars for millions of people. The American Heart Association recommends kids drink no more than one sugary drink a week, but the average child now consumes ten times that amount. These levels of added liquid sugars increase risk for serious chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and tooth decay.

We applaud all city, county and state leaders, including (those in) Seattle and Multnomah County, who are working to bring the benefits of sugary drink taxes to their communities. The American Heart Association will continue to stand by you as you choose better health for your communities.

GOVERNOR SUSANA MARTINEZ: Tonight’s results send a clear message: even in arguably the most liberal city in the state, New Mexicans don’t have the appetite to pay higher taxes. This was the same out-of-touch agenda that Santa Fe lawmakers tried to jam through when they passed a $350 million tax increase – including raising the price of gas. Hopefully, legislators heard this message.

SANDRA WECHSLER, HEAD OF PRE-K FOR SANTA FE, WHICH LED THE CAMPAIGN SUPPORTING THE TAX: Now that the campaign has ended, we hope proponents and opponents alike join together to fight with the same passion and energy for pre-K for Santa Fe’s children. The need is great. The time was not now. But the longer we wait, the more children will be left behind.

To those who believed that there was a better way to fund pre-K: We hope you will work hard to find that funding source. To those who supported the Soda Tax, we urge you to keep working hard for pre-K and against the soda industry’s unhealthy beverages.

CITY COUNCILOR RON TRUJILLO, THE ONLY COUNCILOR TO OPPOSE THE TAX AND 2018 MAYORAL CANDIDATE (VIA FACEBOOK): “THANK YOU” to all who voted yesterday, and those of you who couldn’t, but contacted family and friends.

SANTA FE spoke loud and clear.

Yesterday, we were a City Divided; today, I hope that we will become a City United again and we move on from this divisive issue and thus continue to ensure that the people and the issues that are the responsibility of a city to provide to its residents continue to be met at the highest quality to ensure our great city continues to prosper.

KATHY HART, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COCA-COLA BOTTLING CO. OF SANTA FE: The voters of Santa Fe – our neighbors for over 98 years – made their voices heard tonight. We agree with their decision that this proposed tax would have been very harmful to Santa Fe consumers, local businesses, and an unsustainable way to fund such an important program as pre-K.

Our family-owned and operated business has been proud to call Santa Fe home for six generations and we look forward to continuing to support the Santa Fe community.

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS NEW MEXICO PRESIDENT STEPHANIE LY: Today’s election results are a stinging disappointment for New Mexico’s children and supporters of access to high-quality early education in New Mexico.

After years of obstruction by Governor Martinez and million-dollar campaigns from the American Beverage Association based on alternative facts and half-truths, New Mexican families are still without a pathway to critical education at an early age.

The great irony in tonight’s results isn’t that there is a philosophical divide on the necessity of early education – in fact, it is universally recognized as the single best way to prepare a child for a successful future – but that at every step of the way, well-funded and well-connected interests have said funding early education initiatives is someone else’s responsibility and our children will continue to be deprived from their right to an education in New Mexico.

Santa Feans should be proud of Mayor Javier Gonzales’ courageous stand in advocating for the city’s children over the sugar industry and we call upon other leaders in New Mexico to follow Mayor Gonzales’ lead. Tonight’s results should not deter supporters of children in New Mexico, but rather inspire us to redouble our efforts because education matters.

Education is a New Mexico value and tonight’s results do not change that fact.