Alaska city to vote on first state tax on soda, sweet drinks

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Residents of a northern Alaska community are set to vote on whether to impose the state’s first tax on most sodas and other sweetened drinks.

Voters in Utqiagvik are scheduled to vote Tuesday on the proposed tax on drinks sold in the city, the Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

The proposed ordinance would impose a 1-cent tax per 1 ounce (28 grams) of soda, energy drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages sold in the community at the state’s northern tip.

The tax on a 12-ounce (340-gram) can of soda would be 12 cents. A bottle holding 20 ounces (567 grams) would be taxed 20 cents. A 2-litre bottle of soda would cost 67 cents more, while a 12-pack of cans would cost $1.44 more. Fountain drinks also would be taxed by volume, officials said.

The tax does not cover 100% fruit or vegetable juices, milk products, medicinal drinks, baby formula, weight-loss drinks, or alcohol. Qualifying beverages must have at least 2 calories per ounce, which disqualifies zero-calorie sodas and bottled water.

The ordinance states that 75% of the tax proceeds would be reserved for youth programs and activities sponsored or conducted by the city.

If Utqiagvik imposes the tax, “to our knowledge, this is the first official ‘soda tax,'” state tax assessor Marty McGee said in an email.

The Alaska Beverage Association opposes the tax, according to campaign finance reports. The association has sent flyers to North Slope Borough residents and is placing an ad in the Arctic Sounder newspaper.

Utqiagvik’s city council voted unanimously to place the measure on the ballot. Utqiagvik Councilwoman Megan Edwardsen proposed the measure but said persuading the 4,500 residents to vote for it may be difficult.

“I hope it’s implemented,” Edwardsen said. “I’m not going to hold my breath, though.”


Information from: Anchorage Daily News,

The Associated Press