Seattle mayor Ed Murray on Thursday morning announced the details of his soda tax proposal—a 1.75 cent tax for every ounce of sugary drinks to discourage consumption and raise money for health programs. Council member Tim Burgess said the proposal will likely make it to City Council in early June. If the council approves the tax, it would be enacted next year.
The tax is higher than the 1 cent soda tax enacted in Berkeley. And the proposal makes the notable change to include diet soda—which makes the tax more equitable, Murray said—after criticisms that white people are more likely to consume diet drinks. Dr. John Krieger from UW Medicine said the research is crystal clear about the harmful effects of soda, but the effects of diet soda are much more unclear.
Krieger said researchers estimate that for every 10 percent cost increase on soda, there's about 10-12 percent lower consumption. The idea is to invest more heavily into education and food access for people of color, who are more prone to health problems. The tax exempts 100 percent fruit juices, infant formula, medicine, and milk-based products.
Officials expect the tax to raise $23 million the first year, but the budget underestimates the number since the goal is for the tax to lead to less consumption (and therefore less revenue). Over time the revenue is expected to plateau to $18 million a year. The funds will go to the Education Summit Advisory Group, Birth to Five programs, and other programs that would increase low-income communities' access to healthy foods.
Pete Lamb, business agent at Teamsters Local 174, said the soda tax is still regressive and disproportionately impacts minorities and low-income people.
"It's not right, it's not fair, and it's completely counterproductive" to the city's goal, Lamb said.
"I say, you know what is more regressive? You know what is really taking money out of African American communities?" Murray said in his statement. "Tolerating an education system that is failing students of color every day and leaving them without a future, and giving them food that will only lead to more health problems."
Updated April 27, 2017, at 1:47pm. This article corrects the number of the union Pete Lamb represents.