Special guest posting on Santa Fe soda tax: I Am Not Big Soda

The Rio Grande Foundation almost never runs guest submissions, but we felt the following article was both powerful and important. The article relates to the Santa Fe soda tax which will be voted on tomorrow. Find out where you can vote here.

I am not big soda

My name is Sam Pick I am the owner of a Kaune’s, an independent grocery store that has been in business in Santa Fe for 120 years. Our store serves a cross-section of our community, from busy families stocking on basics like cereal and paper towels, to workers from nearby offices grabbing take-out lunch. We take pride in being a neighborhood gathering place and providing value to all of our customers.

When Kaune family’s was first established back 1896, it introduced Santa Fe to an exciting new product: Coca-Cola. Now, all these years later, our store is faced with the prospect of a huge beverage tax that would more than double the price of popular beverages like soda, iced-tea, juice drinks and sports drinks. If passed, this tax would have devastating effects on our business and countless others in Santa Fe.

Some supporters of the tax claim that “Big Soda” – the companies that produce the beverages that would be taxed – is fighting the tax just to protect their bottom lines. They have claimed that these companies would simply absorb the cost of the tax themselves. But make no mistake—it is the small businesses and consumers that will bear the brunt of this tax. Frankly, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether the beverage producers make a profit or not. I’m worried about staying in business, protecting my employees’ jobs and providing good service and fair prices to my customers.

It’s not just my store and other businesses that would suffer if the beverage tax passes. Many hard working people in our city will no longer be able to afford their favorite drinks. We aren’t just talking about a few cents here and there: this beverage tax would raise retail prices on these drinks by an average of 38%. Your typical 99-cent 2-liter bottle would jump to $2.35, and a canister of powdered lemonade would skyrocket in cost from $6.98 to an eye-popping $28.74. These increases will put a big dent in my customers’ budgets and many of them will likely choose to shop online or outside the city for better prices. And if they’re buying their beverages elsewhere, they’ll probably buy their groceries there too—and that means lost revenue for businesses like mine.

If that happens, I would likely have to lay off some of my employees, many of whom have worked here for years and are like family to me. In a city that is as expensive as Santa Fe is these days, this would be devastating for them and their families, and for the continued growth of Santa Fe economy.

Like so many of my fellow Santa Feans, I’m all for providing quality Pre-K education for our city’s children. But taking money out of the pockets of hard-working working people and hurting local businesses is not the right way to do that.

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