Initiative to stop soda, grocery tax gets big support, likely to make Nov ballot

Jul 6, 2018, 7:55 AM | Updated: 8:01 am

Organizers behind Initiative 1634, which would bar local governments from imposing taxes on sweetened beverages, delivered 291,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office on Thursday in hopes of making the November ballot. The Spokesman Review reports another 60,000 signatures are expected Friday afternoon.

RELATED: War of words over new soda initiative 

Michael Mandell, with the Yes! To Affordable Groceries campaign, told the Spokesman Review the initiative would prevent the tax of sweetened beverages, but not roll back existing taxes such as the one imposed in Seattle.

The Seattle City Council approved a sugary drink tax in 2017 that went into effect Jan. 1, 2018. It didn’t take long for people to start noticing the steep rise in many beverage prices. It nearly doubled the cost of soda at Costco, for example.

“When local governments are looking to additional taxes, we should keep food and beverages off the table,” Mandell said.

Public Disclosure Commission reports show most of the funding comes from soft drink companies — $2.2 million from the Coca-Cola Company and $1.7 million from PepsiCo, Inc. The Review reports the Washington Food Industry Association contributed $20,000.

Former Attorney General Rob McKenna told KIRO Radio that the way the initiative is worded will likely help it pass.

“Here’s why this measure is probably going to pass: It’s title is ‘An Act Relating to the Taxation of Groceries.’ That’s as far as most people will go,” McKenna said. “The short title is ‘Keep Groceries Affordable Act of 2018.’ Again, most folks are not going to read much farther than that and it will probably pass as a result.”

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Initiative to stop soda, grocery tax gets big support, likely to make Nov ballot