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Anson Stevens-Bollen

Weighing the Sugar Tax

April 26, 2017, 12:00 am
By SFR

On May 2, Santa Fe will tally the votes in the citywide election that asks whether to impose a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on the distribution of sugary drinks. If voters approve, the money will be collected by a third- party contractor, then earmarked to provide pre-kindergarten spots within the Santa Fe Public School District boundaries and distributed to early-childhood education programs with the assistance of a new city commission. We checked in with people on both sides about the reasons for their choice.

Yes

Daniel Borrero
Pediatric Dentist

You might expect a guy who makes a living taking care of kids’ teeth to go straight to a fewer-cavities argument—and he has one if you want to hear it. But Borrero sees pre-K programs as his top argument for supporting the sugary drink tax.

“The main reason is obviously the kids. I love kids. I work with kids, so I would say the welfare of the kids. Looking at the research, all the benefits that a child gets from having that early experience in education; it’s so important that I have to say that’s the main cause.”

He says “you can see the difference” in the kids who have been to a pre-K program. “Before I go in the room, I can tell you, ‘That kid is probably going to Head Start.’ Because they’re relaxed; it’s no big deal going to the dentist.”

Poqueen Rivera
American Heart Association

“Heart disease is the number-one killer in New Mexico. Low- and middle-income families are more affected by chronic diseases, and it’s time we had a community conversation about that.”

“In New Mexico, we don’t talk about our health and our diet as much as we should,” Rivera tells SFR. “We need to think more about the things we eat and drink. We don’t question the normality of it. It’s not just changing the consumption to alter behavior, but changing the industry so that it will offer healthier beverages.”

Karla Parra
Parent

“Kids. Because all kids have the right to learn,” Karla Parra says through an interpreter. Her oldest two children went to pre-K, but her youngest child wasn’t accepted into a program. Did she notice a difference? “Yes. The oldest learned English very quickly,” she says, pointing out that Spanish is the primary language spoken at home.

Parra, who lives on the Southside, isn’t worried about the impact of the tax on her finances. “In my home, we don’t really drink soda very often.”


No

Simon Brackley
President and CEO, Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce

“I think it’s ill-considered either as a health program or as a tax. … It’s so regressive. It will completely fall on lower-income Santa Feans. And … it doesn’t seem right that one-half of the community is voting to put a tax on the other half of the community that can least afford it.”

If pre-K is something the city thinks it must have, the longtime Chamber leader tells SFR, then the city needs to have a thorough debate.

“Raising taxes is never easy, but I feel as though the city hasn’t explored all of the potential options, whether it be a real estate transfer tax, property tax, gasoline tax … There are lots of options out there.”

Ron Trujillo
City Councilor

“This is not something that’s in the purview of city government to be managing. Education has always been a state issue. It should continue to be a state issue. We as a city should stick to the business of the city; infrastructure, roads, sidewalks, public safety, parks, etc.”

There’s enough to do around Santa Fe, the District 4 representative says, without taking on a new program.

“We have a lot of projects we haven’t been able to fund. These are things that have been piling up on top of each other year after year. We need to take care of those projects before we start taking care of other people’s projects.”

Young Jo-Almeida
Parent

“I’m the parent of a toddler and I also have older kids. I have more than one reason, but I don’t want to ask my other friends to pay for [my child’s pre-K]. It’s going to cost them. They have to buy higher-cost drinks. So it’s going to cost them to help my kid and my neighbor’s kid.”

To Jo-Almeida, the program’s funding stream and its message don’t agree with each other. “They’re saying, ‘Okay, soda is a bad drink.’ So do they want us to stop drinking it or do they want us to drink more? It’s kind of a confusing tax.”



 

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