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Does Seattle’s new beverage tax target the working class?


A new year, a new tax. Starting Jan. 1, Seattle’s new beverage tax added a 1.75 cent fee for every ounce of soda, sports drinks, kombucha, and other sweetened drinks.

Jim Desler, the spokesperson for Keep Seattle Livable for All, spoke to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson about the group’s effort to oppose the beverage tax.

“It really is a coalition of small businesses and concerned citizens. They’re the driving force behind this. They’re opposed to this tax as well as other forms of regressive taxation,” Desler said. “We’re working with other allies on this issue and raising public awareness and providing a structure and vehicle for Seattle residents to have their voices heard on this issue.”

RELATED: Why some sugary drinks are exempt from Seattle’s new sugar tax

One reason some oppose the tax is that it will likely disproportionately affect people in lower income brackets. It is also expected to affect small businesses, who will have to increase their beverage prices.

“Studies have confirmed this. I think that even this is clear to our city leaders. Their hope is to address nutritional issues. But what they’re really doing is, this is really a stick against working neighborhoods, those that are having a more and more difficult time affording living in Seattle,” Desler said. “It just seems to be very regressive and hit those who can least afford it the hardest.”

The city estimates that the tax will raise $15 million in its first year. Some of that money will go to nutritional programs like Fresh Bucks, which provides produce vouchers for low income families. But only $400,000 will be spent on vouchers. Another $2 million will go toward Fresh Bucks administrative costs.

Desler called the nutritional programs “laudable” but worried over the way in which the tax is being carried out.

“Why are you doing this on the backs of those who can least afford it?” he said. “It’s just another indication or another sign of making it just much more difficult to live in the city.”

“Now that voters are going to feel the pinch of this tax that was passed in the dead of summer last June, we’re trying to channel some of that frustration and anger rather than have that directed towards shop owners or store owners,” Desler added.

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