STUMP » Articles » Centless in Seattle: The New Soda Tax Saga » 9 January 2018, 04:26

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Centless in Seattle: The New Soda Tax Saga  


9 January 2018, 04:26

Thanks to @HostaDaylily for my series name.

Let’s hope it lasts.


So, I already had a kick-off post, but I’ve found so much more since then.

Here is Jon Gabriel, better known as @exjon on Twitter, talking about the new tax:

Where will all the new revenue go? Seattle officials expect a $15 million boost in the first year. Since this was sold as a health initiative, $2 million of that will expand a city program that gives fruit and vegetable vouchers to low-income families. Of course, only $400,000 will go to actual vouchers; the other $1.6 million stays with the government for “administrative costs.”

Philadelphia, which enacted a similar tax last year, overestimated the expected revenue. Sales of carbonated soft drinks fell 55 percent inside the city, while sales rose 38 percent in the towns that surround it. It achieved neither the financial goals nor the health goals.

When the Seattle tax was first proposed, a “racial-equity analysis” found that diet beverages should be included since they are more popular among whites and the wealthy people. The politicians shot this down since they know which constituents donate to and vote for them.



This isn’t even about sugar, if you’re taxing diet sodas. What the heck?

Like most of these beverage taxes hitting blue cities, what is and is not included are counter-intuitive. All meal replacement drinks, powdered mixes, and most sugary coffee drinks — such as those found at local mega-company Starbucks — are exempt.

A lot of those sound like, oh, I dunno, things popular among whites and/or wealthy people. Why not tax those, too?

So, if you buy a bottled lemonade, you pay the tax. If you buy Kool-Aid and mix it with water at home, no tax. If you buy a Venti Brown Sugar Shortbread Latte at Starbucks, the tax doesn’t apply. If you get a Tall Brown Sugar Shortbread Frappuccino, which has less sugar, it does.

Oh, man, I remember mom buying the Koolaid mix that DID NOT have the sugar in it. When we made the mistake of mixing it up without sugar… BLECH.


Sticker shock over Seattle’s new sugary drink tax:

People are feeling sticker shock over Seattle’s sugary drink tax.

You might’ve seen a picture circulating on social media that shows a more than $10 tax on a $15.99 case of Gatorade at Costco. On Friday, shoppers were taking their own pictures, stunned by the new prices.

Advocates of the tax held a press conference on Friday, to explain how the city plans to use the $15 million expected to be raised from the tax in 2018.

One Costco shopper loaded a case of Coca-Cola into her cart, not noticing the new price until KIRO7 pointed it out.

“That much!” said Vilma Villagran, who was buying the case for her family.

The regular case of Coke is now $7.35 more expensive than the Diet Coke or Coke Zero.

“I knew it was going to be high, but not that crazy high,” Villagran said.

Other shoppers closely read the sign, which explains that as of Jan. 1, Seattle shoppers are paying 1.75 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages – something shoppers are really noticing when buying in bulk.

The tax has many people opting for the diet soda.

Supporters of the tax said that’s the point – not necessarily to switch to diet soda, but getting consumers to go for healthier options.

“I’m just very excited,” said Jim Krieger, who is on the committee for Seattle Healthy Kids Coalition and is the executive director of Health Food America.

“The hope is consumption of the unhealthy product — which causes heart disease, diabetes — will go down, the sugary drinks to go down, and we fully expect that to be the case,” Krieger said.
The other purpose is tax dollars.

The $15 million Seattle expects to raise from the tax will go toward programs that will help people who are in need have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The money will also fund education programs. See the full breakdown provided at the end of the article.

I will provide the breakdown shortly, but I wonder if Seattle factored in their presumed goal of reducing sugary soda consumption as part of determining what their expected take would be.

Breakdown of sugary beverage tax allocations, as provided by Seattle Healthy Kids Coalition:

Programs that the City Council has approved funding ($5,658,494) for in 2018
already include:

Fresh Bucks, Food Action Plan ($2,404,359)
13th Year Promise Scholarship ($1,381,885)
Innovation High School, Summer Learning, Summer Melt ($1,004,500)
Our Best ($189,000)
Parent-Child Home Program ($525,000)
Food Banks ($153,750)

Proposed investments ($4,120,639) awaiting review by CAB in Spring 2018:

Farm to Table
Fresh Bucks to Go
Food Banks
Out-of-School Time Nutrition Program
Early learning programs

In addition to these investments, revenue from the new sugary drinks tax will also support evaluation work ($500,000) to track the tax’s effectiveness and impacts, job retraining support ($500,000) for those employed within the local distribution network for the beverage industry and general administrative support ($1,082,000) in city government.

I love the term “investments” when it comes to spending tax money. Makes one all tingly inside.

Do the people paying the soda tax get updates on how their “investments” are faring?

Here’s my main question, though: what is the money heirarchy here? If the take is less than $15 million, am I to assume that the $1 million to the city government is guaranteed, and the non-government-money is less guaranteed?

Just asking questions.


Let’s see if I can find more reactions.


What’s really funny about all this is that this has already played out inboth Philadelphia and Cook County. One really knows how this is going to play out in terms of border stores getting a boost, and in-town convenience stores getting whacked.

Amusingly, this is the exact same “reasoning” in Cook County, but it was a bit more fraught there, as Cook County was facing budget cuts (and got them once the soda tax was rescinded). I don’t know if Seattle is similarly hurting for revenue. It could be.

Seriously, this is exactly the same as Cook County — except a higher tax rate. This is absurd.

I’m really looking forward to the Mike Bloomberg ads he’ll play in Seattle. He’s got ads to play in Seattle, right?

Oh, you silly people. Taxes are always passed onto the consumer. Where do you think the distributors/retailers get their money? The soda fairy? All the money ultimately comes from those who buy the soda.

(note: I need more good DUMBASS gifs)

Is sugar an electrolyte? I have no idea.

Well, that puts it into perspective (note: I have not checked this guy’s math).

This is why geographic diversification for a retailer is a good idea.

I may or may not be creating a Seattle soda tax list, like I did with Cook County. We’ll see.

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