Seattle soda tax a go
- Jun 6, 2017 | Gail Cole
After months of debate, the Seattle City Council voted yesterday, 7-1, in favor of a tax on the distribution of soda and other sweetened beverages. Councilmember Kshama Sawant was absent, and Councilmember Lisa Herbold was the one dissenting vote.
A 2-cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of sugary drinks was initially proposed by Mayor Ed Murray in his February State of the City address. He later revised his plan after learning the tax would disproportionately affect “people with low incomes and people of color.” The plan he sent to the City Council called for a tax of 1.75 cents per ounce and also proposed taxing diet drinks laden with “noncaloric sweeteners.” Ultimately, the plan approved by the City Council taxes beverages with caloric sweeteners only; it exempts “any beverage that contains fewer than 40 calories per 12-ounce serving.”
The plan also specifically exempts several other types of beverages from the tax, including but not limited to:
- Any beverage in which natural milk is the primary ingredient … or in which water and grains, nuts, legumes, or seeds constitute the first two ingredients in the product ingredient list
- Any beverage for medical use
- Meal replacement beverages
- Baby or infant formula
- Alcoholic beverages
- 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices with no added sweeteners
In addition to funding education programs, the tax will fund programs that expand access to “healthy and affordable food,” including Fresh Bucks and Fresh Bucks to Go. As Councilmember Herbold supports these programs, she issued a statement explaining her opposition to the soda tax: “This kind of tax will always be a regressive tax, meaning that the tax burden of this kind of tax will always be greatest on those with lower incomes. … I feel that [the bill] is punitive to low income people and small businesses … [and] has a racially disparate impact on people of color.”
The ordinance imposing a tax on engaging in the business of distributing sweetened beverages has been submitted to Mayor Murray for his signature. He is expected to sign it.