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With $5.7M extra from Seattle tax, are poor people funding government?

(AP file photo)

The Seattle soda tax collected infinitely more money than the city projected, approximately $22 million in 2018, nearly $8 million more than first expected. As the original law required, much of that money went into health programs. But $5.7 million wound up in the general fund.

“There was $5.7 million extra raised, and of course it went straight to a program to reduce obesity with young people to get people off the sugar, targeted like a laser beam down at that effort,” joked Todd Herman of the Candy, Mike and Todd Show.

“Well it didn’t quite get there. It went into general things. What are we going to use it for? Oh general things.”

Seattle’s tax of 1.75 cents per fluid ounce of sugary beverages took effect in January 2018, and covered sugary beverages, syrups and concentrates. Across all beverages and Seattle stores surveyed, an average 97 percent of the tax was passed on to consumers.

97 percent of Seattle soda tax passed on to consumers

With the millions of surplus heading into the general fund, the original critique that the tax would unfairly target the poor has resurfaced, since soda consumption statistically skews toward poorer communities. Critics argue that this appears as though the city is simply funding government with poor people’s money.

“My understanding of this is that fiscally it’s been wildly successful, but maybe not on the on the front of stopping people from drinking the cursed sodas,” Todd said.

The Seattle City Council is currently drafting legislation that would establish a fund for the soda tax to prevent any of it from ending up in a general fund, and be spent on health program aligning with the original intent, reports King 5.

Seattle council questions mayor’s plans for extra soda tax money

KIRO Radio’s Mike Lewis hopes the city will target the funds more directly to actually improving health.

“It would be nice if they did some sort of public relations campaign in the schools regarding sugary beverages,” he said. “There is a legitimate science behind declaring sugar as a controlled substance. To be honest, I don’t mind a little bit going into the general fund as long as it doesn’t go toward anything they want to keep forever.”

“The way these taxes typically work is they this they decline over time, because fewer people are buying the product,” Lewis continued. “And so what I don’t want to see is this tax then funding something that we need to actually maintain, and then needing another tax on something else to maintain any programs we built from this tax.”

Listen to The Candy, Mike, and Todd Show weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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