Seattle council approves soda tax restrictions in face of veto threat
The Seattle City Council voted Monday to approve restrictions on sweetened beverage tax revenue to original food access programs.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has already threatened to veto that plan, but may find that difficult, with Monday’s measure passing by a veto-proof 7-1 margin. Regardless, she still intends on moving forward.
“Because Council has refused to fund these vital programs or put forward a balanced plan, I will veto this bill,” she reiterated Monday, shortly after the measure was passed. “I am disappointed that despite the warnings of their own staff, City Council is creating a budget gap of more than $7 million.”
The plan restricts how soda tax revenues are spent. The money generated from the sweetened beverage tax was supposed to be directed to help low income families get access to healthy food.
But when the tax took in millions more than expected last year, Mayor Durkan and the council agreed to shift the extra money to social programs that the general fund covered.
This new measure now creates a dedicated fund for all soda tax revenue. That fund will come with specific rules, to ensure all of the money goes toward expanding healthy food options, food banks, and promoting healthy eating. The rules state the money can’t be swapped for general fund dollars to pay for similar existing programs.
Councilmembers Mike O’Brien, Lorena Gonzalez, Teresa Mosqueda and Lisa Herbold signed a letter calling Durkan’s criticism “alarmist.”
The original soda tax went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
MyNorthwest staff contributed to this report