Opponents of a soda tax measure that could be up for a vote in Multnomah County next year kicked off their campaign Thursday. That’s a little over a month after a pro-soda tax group launched its canvassing effort to get the 18,000 signatures needed to secure a spot on the May 2018 ballot.
The Move Forward Multnomah Coalition, along with small business owners, gathered at the Food Fusion Pavilion in Northeast Portland. They said the tax, which would increase the cost of sugary drinks by 1.5 cents per ounce, will hurt business owners in a county. More specifically, they said the tax will be one more barrier for small business owners — specifically business owners of color — who already have trouble accessing capital to start a small business in a place like Portland.
“I do business in Oregon specifically for the non-sales tax reason,” said Anthony Mohammad, who owns the Food Fusion Pavilion. “I have companies all over the country, but Oregon allows for me to put something like this here for people to really strive.”
If canvassers succeed, and if the initiative is approved by voters, Multnomah County would be the first in the state to win a soda tax fight that, for years, was an uphill battle against deep-pocketed beverage companies. Pro soda-tax groups say passing a measure would raise millions for health initiatives.
Opponents of the soda tax are concerned about the possibility of a successful soda tax campaign in Multnomah County, and what that could mean for a state that has yet to see what a successful soda tax campaign looks like.