Sugary drink taxes can dismantle systemic inequities by giving back to communities

Understanding the deeper context and the growing community support, more and more racial and health equity groups are coming out in favor of these taxes, with an important caveat: that revenues generated get reinvested in the communities most impacted. This means that the fees would directly fund programs that address community health disparities, like DA BUX (which makes local produce more affordable for low income households), or the expansion of pre-K programs (as seen in Philadelphia). Hawai‘i’s current proposal does exactly that.

When viewed with this lens, the regressivity argument loses some of its luster. Yes, the fee will be paid by people who consume sugary drinks. But that fee will be collected statewide, and the projected $65.8 million in revenues it raises will be reinvested specifically into the communities that need it most.

Hawaii’s proposal has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, but we believe that the community should have an opportunity to weigh in. Call your legislator today to ask them to hear Senate Bill 541.

The bottom line is that companies will use the regressivity argument to divert attention from their real concern: lost revenue. But we know that when funds are reinvested back into the most impacted communities, they help prevent future harm, and can give people from those communities a better shot at succeeding and thriving.

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