Mayor Murray Pitches New Tax on Soda

He says it will help the city raise $16 million for education services for students of color.

A typical 20-ounce coke contains 15 to 18 spoonfuls of sugar and up to 240 calories. In the future, it might also contain a 40-cent tax if you buy it in Seattle.

During his annual State of the City address on Tuesday, Mayor Ed Murray said that he planned to propose a two-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to the City Council. If approved, the measure could mean a $16-million raise in the city’s budget, which would help fund early childhood education programs for students of color.

“Other cities, including Boulder, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Oakland have passed similar policies both to fund youth services and to achieve positive public health impacts,” Murray said in his speech. “This is the right way for Seattle to do the same and fund programs important to the health and success of so many of our underserved students of color.”

If the City Council approve the proposal, the Emerald City would join Berkeley’s effort against one of the main factors of overweight and obesity in the country. San Francisco’s neighbor became the first American city to apply a tax on sugary drinks in March 2015. Since then, according to a study by the University of California Berkeley, the penny-per-ounce surcharge caused a 21-percent drop in soda drinking in the area’s low-income neighborhoods.

Murray’s plan drew praise from Mark Shriver, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Save the Children Action Network.

“In addition to providing funding for early learning programs, sugary drink tax revenues can be invested in low-income communities disproportionately affected by health conditions caused by sugary drinks, while also raising revenue for crucial programs that improve health both directly and indirectly, like chronic disease prevention programs and public safety,” Shriver wrote in a statement. “This is truly a win-win.”

Sugar taxes have a troubled history in the area, though. In 2010, Washingtonians repealed a sugary drink tax that was expected to generate about $94 million, which could have eased a $2.8-billion gap in the state budget.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Association proposed the Washington Repeal Tax Law Amendments Initiative—also known as Initiative 1107—in rejection to a temporary tax on soda and other sugary drinks passed by the legislature earlier that year. The initiative, which repealed new state taxes on soft drinks, candy, bottled water and certain processed food, received 60.44 percent of support.

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story said the Save the Children Action Network is based in Baltimore. In fact, it is based in Washington, D.C.

More in News & Comment

Pow! Bam! Inslee delivers a one-two punch of executive power

Governor shifted $175M to culverts and vetoed a sentence he said threatened funding for transit.

Self-driving cars: Heaven or hell?

Depending on factors, traffic and environmental impacts could become better or worse.

King County’s $5 million derelict boat problem

When a boat sinks, it costs a lot to bring it up, with millions being spent since 2003 on removals.

Ashley Hiruko/illustration
Susan’s quest for ‘justice’ and the civil legal system dilemma

While citizens have the right to an attorney in criminal cases, they’re not afforded the same rights in civil litigation.

Upon further review, EPA wants to redo water quality rules

Feds say they’ll use what the state submitted in 2016 even though they’re no longer the state’s faves.

King County Councilman Reagan Dunn sent a letter to the FBI asking for them to help investigate Allan Thomas (pictured), who is under investigation for stealing more than $400,000 of public funds and skirting election laws in an Enumclaw drainage district. Screenshot from King 5 report
King County Council requests report on special districts in wake of fraud allegations

Small, local special districts will face more scrutiny following Enumclaw drainage district case.

The Marquee on Meeker Apartments, 2030 W. Meeker St. in Kent, will feature 492 apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail. The first phase of 288 apartments is expected to be completed in early 2020. Developers are targeting people in their 20s and 30s to rent their high-end, urban-style apartments. Steve Hunter/staff photo
Housing study pokes holes in conventional wisdom

High construction and land costs will incentivize developers to build luxury units.

File photo
Eviction reform passed by state Legislature

Tenant protections included longer notices and more judicial discretion.

Oh, crab! There’s something fishy about this place

That mysterious eyesore by the sea will be replaced by a new research center. “It’s all going to go.”

Most Read