PORTLAND, Ore, -- On Saturday, a group began collecting signatures to gain support for a soda tax in Multnomah County

The Coalition for Healthy Kids and Education needs to collect about 18,000 signatures to get the Multnomah County soda tax on the May 2018 ballot.

The Coalition for Healthy Kids and Education is a group of doctors, parents, health experts and community leaders supporting kids in Multnomah County.

“We need to turn the signatures in by December 15th,” said campaign manager Terri Steenbergen. “We are hoping to turn them in much earlier than that.”

Group meets to collect signatures for a sugary drink tax in Multnomah County
Group meets to collect signatures for a sugary drink tax in Multnomah County

If approved, distributors of beverages will pay a tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on sugary drinks including soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas and other beverages that have added caloric sweeteners. This includes sugary syrup that would be added to sweet coffee drinks.

For example, a 12-ounce can of soda would cost an extra 18 cents.

The Coalition for Healthy Kids and Education says this does not impact infant formula, milk products or natural fruit and vegetable juices, and the tax will not be charged to retailers.

“Sugar-sweetened beverages count anything from sodas, to Gatorade and sweetened ice teas things like that,” said Steenbergen. “That money would go towards funding early childhood education and public health initiatives here in Multnomah County, in low-income communities and communities of color.”

Half of the revenue will go toward expanding access to quality preschool programs for thousands of children, the group says. The remaining funds will be invested in programs that promote literacy, physical activity and healthy eating habits for kids.

The proposed tax is similar to Seattle’s controversial sugary drink tax, passed earlier this year. Seattle’s tax is 1.75 cents an ounce, and is expected to go into effect January 2018.

Supporters for a Multnomah County soda tax say it's a way to raise millions of dollars for education and keep kids and adults healthy.

“For us, this campaign was really a no-brainer in terms of addressing the overconsumption of sugary drinks,” said Oregon Public Health Institute CEO Cyreena Boston Ashby. “Which we know causes juvenile obesity and juvenile diabetes.”

Critics of a soda tax say it will affect low-income consumers the most, and they also say the move will hurt small businesses and cost jobs.

KING 5, KGW’s sister station in Seattle, conducted an investigation into whether a soda tax leads to job losses, which you can read here.

To learn more about the proposed Multnomah County tax, you can read the proposed ballot here.