Labor groups, big soda stump for I-1634 to fight soda taxes

Sep 3, 2018, 12:45 PM | Updated: Sep 4, 2018, 8:26 am
soda taxes, soda tax...
A sign indicating higher prices of sugary drinks due to Seattle's soda tax. (Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)
(Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)

On Labor Day, groups are speaking in support of Initiative 1634, which would prohibit new local taxes on soft drinks and groceries.

While Seattle’s sugary drink tax would remain in place, the measure would stop other local Washington State governments from enacting similar taxes. Seattle’s tax excludes diet drinks.

The measure says keeping the price of groceries as low as possible improves the access to food for all Washingtonians and taxing groceries is regressive.

In the text of the measure,”groceries” means: any raw or processed food or beverage, or any ingredient thereof, intended for human consumption except alcoholic beverages, marijuana products, and tobacco. “Groceries” includes, but is not limited to, meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, bread, milk, cheese and other dairy products, 2 nonalcoholic beverages, kombucha with less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, condiments, spices, cereals, seasonings, leavening agents, eggs, cocoa, teas, and coffees whether raw or processed.

But because the measure’s biggest financial supporters are large soft drink companies, some say I-1634 is misleading, as no tax on groceries has been suggested by local government and that the initiative is really just about keeping new taxes away from soft drinks, which would keep profits coming in to the soda corporations.

And health advocates don’t see taxes on sugary drinks as a bad thing. Supporters of Seattle’s soda tax said it would cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks that have little nutritional value and are linked to obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

Meanwhile, a news release about a Monday morning rally in Burien says more than 1,300 Washington small businesses, restaurants, cafes, grocers and community organizations have joined in support of the measure.

Speakers at the 10:30 a.m. rally in Burien include union leaders and a grocery store manager.

The group behind the measure is Yes! To Affordable Groceries. The campaign supporting I-1634 has raised more than $6 million, with The Coca-Cola Co. contributing nearly $3 million, PepsiCo, Inc. giving more than $2 million and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. giving nearly $1 million.

The measure will appear on Washington state’s November ballot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Labor groups, big soda stump for I-1634 to fight soda taxes