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How Pepsi and Coca-Cola Could Kill the Chula Vista Tax Hike (and the Convention Center)

Soda companies are pouring millions of dollars into the Taxpayer Protection Act of 2018, a ballot measure aimed for the November vote that would impose a requirement of two-thirds votes for all tax increases.

Soda companies are pouring millions of dollars into the Taxpayer Protection Act of 2018, a ballot measure aimed for the November vote that would impose a requirement of two-thirds votes for all tax increases.

The measure is being coordinated by the California Business Roundtable, which already submitted signatures.

There’s one key part of it: It would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018. Any tax measure passed this year would have to have gotten a two-thirds vote, or it’s gone.

That’s particularly important for Measure A in Chula Vista. As a general tax — the city is not formally committed to spend the money on any specific need — the measure only needs a simple majority.

Can it do that retroactively? Yes.

“There is a history of ballot measures in California including a retroactive application provision,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, in a statement to Voice of San Diego.

Attorney Michael G. Colantuono agreed. He and Lapsley pointed to Propositions 62, 218 and 26, which all had retroactive elements. Lapsley also highlighted the tax increases Gov. Jerry Brown put to a vote. They were retroactive on incomes as well.

Why it’s happening: It is backlash from a 2014 measure in the city of Berkeley that established a tax on soda. Since then, other cities and the Legislature have flirted with similar taxes.

The American Beverage Association has put $5.95 million into the effort. More than $2.15 million came from PepsiCo alone.

Other funders include Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Red Bull and Niagara Bottling.

Convention Center push now even harder: This could also ruin the plans of the big coalition of labor, hotel owners and the mayor hoping to increase the city of San Diego’s hotel-room tax. They are going for a two-thirds vote on the November ballot.

But they’re running it as a citizens’ initiative. There’s an argument that citizens’ initiatives only need 50 percent plus one vote after a shocking ruling from the state Supreme Court last year.

They’re making about a $1 million bet on that, in fact. The City Council could put the Convention Center expansion measure on the ballot for not much money. But hotel owners and labor unions are going to spend nearly $1 million (or more?) to gather signatures instead just in case it only gets a majority of the vote and not two-thirds.

But now the bet is also that this PepsiCo initiative doesn’t pass.

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