Council schedules March 8 public hearing on soda tax plan

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales discusses his plan to impose a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages during a meeting Wednesday of the City Business and Quality of Life Committee. The City Council decided later in the day to hold a March 8 public hearing on the proposal. Robert Nott/The New Mexican

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales’ plan to impose a tax on sugary beverages to pay for preschool programs cleared its first two hurdles Wednesday when an advisory committee gave its approval and the full City Council agreed to hold a public hearing on the measure.

The 6-1 vote by the City Business and Quality of Life Committee came during an emotionally charged session early in the day that spotlighted the frustrations felt by both advocates and opponents of the beverage tax. Even some of the fiercest opponents of the tax support the idea of expanding Santa Fe families’ access to early childhood education, but they say the tax is the wrong way to fund it because the tax would place the burden on small businesses and consumers.

Later, the council unanimously passed a resolution to hold a March 8 public hearing, when members of the community can formally weigh in on the mayor’s proposal for a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on most sugary drinks. The tax is expected to bring in enough revenue to provide prekindergarten slots for more than 1,000 3- and 4-year-olds.

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