A few years ago, legislators devised a plan that was aimed at reducing the economic burdens for Californians.
The law, which was is to remain in effect until January 1, 2031, “prohibits the imposition, increase, levy and collection, or enforcement by a local agency of any tax, fee, or other assessment on groceries, except as provided, and allows a local agency to continue to levy and collect, enforce, or reauthorize any tax, fee, or other assessment on groceries imposed, extended, or increased on or before January 1, 2018.”
Simply stated, the law ensures that the costs of grocery items, items that we all need, will not increase because a local agency wants to raise money by taxing hard working, cash strapped Californians. I like the law because it reminds me of the phrase “no new taxes.”
My question for those who are questioning the reasonableness of the current legislation is, “Given all of the economic demands that have been placed on hard working people as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is now the time for loosening the restrictions on new taxes, fees and assessments?” I say, “Absolutely not.”
Proponents of the AB1163 make their arguments by taking shots at what they have been dubbed “Big Soda lobbyists” and “sugar sweetened beverages.” Sugar sweetened beverages are easy targets. Linking them to the alarming rates of negative health indexes is easy; yet, easy is not always right.
Think about it… will we likely tax our way to lower blood sugar numbers? Will we likely tax our way to lower cholesterol numbers? Will we likely tax our way to lower blood pressure numbers? Will we likely tax our way to more healthy communities? I think not.
We can all agree on the urgent need to improve health in our communities. Our challenges are significant.
Let us focus on education, reducing food deserts, and increasing access to locally grown fresh produce and fresh fruits. Let us focus and work tirelessly to make healthy food options offered at affordable prices available in our communities.
In so doing, we will see the changes we want to see without adding economic stress to the very people who least need more stress of any kind.
The Rev. James K. McKnight is the senior pastor of the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship in Los Angeles.