Capitol Alert

Consultant: “Big soda ... has Sacramento locked up”

Roger Salazar
Roger Salazar

Larry Tramutola, a political strategist who worked on passage of Berkeley’s first-in-the-nation soda tax last year, said Saturday that soda-tax advocates will continue to advance local tax measures because they have no hope of success in the state Legislature, where he said “big soda … has Sacramento locked up.”

Speaking at a conference on the 2014 elections, Tramutola suggested a “conflict of interest” for Roger Salazar, who worked against Tramutola in the soda tax campaign, in his role as a spokesman for the Legislature’s Latino Caucus.

“The fact that the Latino Caucus is bought and sold by the beverage industry disgusts me,” Tramutola said.

Salazar, who was seated beside Tramutola for the discussion, said afterward, “That’s ridiculous.”

The consultants’ remarks came during a panel discussion of local ballot measures in 2014. A similar soda tax failed in San Francisco. Tramutola said that because there is “no hope at the Sacramento level,” many more such local campaigns will have to be waged in an effort to prevent childhood obesity and diabetes.

Critics of the soda tax said it would raise prices and be a drag on the economy.

Salazar said his work with the caucus is separate from his work on the soda tax. He noted that the Latino Caucus chairman, Sen. Ricardo Lara, co-authored a bill last year to put health warnings on sugary drinks.

That bill was defeated amid heavy lobbying by the beverage industry.

The weekend conference, organized by the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, drew political consultants, journalists and others from around the state.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.