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PubliCola Picks "No" on Initiative 1107

By PublicolaPicks October 16, 2010

Initiative 1107 would repeal the temporary sales tax on soda and bottled water, and would permanently extend the sales tax to candy and gum.

PubliCola urges voters to oppose this initiative, which would eliminate reasonable taxes that were passed this year to help preserve critical programs that would otherwise have been cut. A few cents on a can of soda is a small price to pay for environmental, health, and education programs that benefit all Washington residents.

I-1107 would cost the state between $250 million and $300 million over the next three years. That money would come straight out of the state's general fund, which pays for health care, programs to  prevent the spread of communicable diseases, and initiatives to improve air and water quality---not to mention efforts to reduce childhood obesity, which has been directly related to soda and candy consumption. During the worst recession in nearly a century---and facing a budget shortfall of $4.5 billion over the next two years--- the state can hardly afford to take such a massive hit.

Moreover, by taxing junk food, the state is helping to mitigate the harmful impacts caused by excessive consumption of empty calories, including obesity, diabetes, and malnutrition. According to the Washington Budget and Policy Center, the candy tax could reduce consumption of both candy and bottled water by nine percent, and reduce soda consumption by a smaller percentage, over the next few years. No wonder the pro-1107 campaign is funded almost exclusively by the American Beverage Association, AKA the soda lobby. There's no logical reason the state should subsidize nutritionally deficient non-foods that harm public health.

Additionally, the production of bottled water benefits oil companies (plastic bottles are made from petroleum) while contributing greatly to pollution and global warming. (Water bottles also contain chemicals that have been linked to cancer).

Proponents of 1107 have argued that it unfairly taxes "groceries," including meat and vegetables. Not true: Earlier this year, the legislature closed a loophole that allowed processed-food companies whose products contain only a small amount of meat or vegetables (like producers of canned chili) to claim a business-and-occupation tax exemption. The legislature got rid of that corporate loophole—1107 would keep it in place. Incidentally, the exemption only amounts to about $4 million—a tiny fraction of the $130 million in annual  "groceries taxes" that the anti-tax 1107 supporters claim to be fighting.

The soda, candy, and bottled-water industries should be willing to pay a small amount for the huge environmental and health impacts their products generate. PubliCola picks "no" on Initiative 1107.

We've also endorsed on Initiatives 1082 , 1100 and 1105.

And don’t forget about PubliCola’s 32 No Brainer picks (including our Patty Murray, Joe Fitzgibbon, and Charlie Wiggins endorsements, and our anti-1053 endorsement).

Editor's Note: Sandeep Kaushik, who co-founded PubliCola in January 2009, is a consultant on the anti-1107 campaign. Sandeep has no editorial role at PubliCola.
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