LOCAL NEWS

Durkan reiterates veto threat, cites ‘irresponsible’ soda tax vote

Jul 23, 2019, 1:25 PM
soda tax...
A sign indicating higher prices of sugary drinks due to Seattle's soda tax. (Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)
(Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)

Shortly after a controversial vote from Seattle City Council to create a dedicated soda tax fund for all revenue raised by a recently-implemented sweetened beverage tax, Mayor Jenny Durkan reiterated her promise to veto the legislation.

Seattle soda tax: Scare tactics, politics, and a veto promise

“I am disappointed that despite the warnings of their own staff, City Council is creating a budget gap of more than $7 million,” Durkan said in a Monday news release. “Because Council has refused to fund these vital programs or put forward a balanced plan, I will veto this bill.”

The measure passed by City Council comes with specific rules for how soda tax funds can be used. The goal is to ensure all of the money goes toward expanding healthy food options, food banks, and promoting healthy eating. The new rules state the money can’t be swapped for general fund dollars to pay for similar existing programs.

The tax itself has paid immediate dividends since it was enacted in January 2018, earning $22 million, $5.7 million more than the city originally estimated. It faced criticism, though, when that extra money went into the city’s general fund.

“[We] did a lot of door knocking and we promised people in the community that this money was going to come back to them because they were going to be the ones most impacted,” Got Green food access organizer Tanika Thompson said at a June public meeting. “And I kind of feel like I let them down. That’s just because there was money taken away from them and put into the general fund. That was exactly what they were concerned about.”

Even so, Mayor Durkan remains in staunch opposition to the council’s recent edits to how soda tax revenue can be spent, claiming that it would lead to significant cuts to several community programs, including food banks, senior meals, and childcare assistance.

Are poor people mostly paying Seattle’s soda tax?

Four council members sent a letter to the mayor countering those claims, calling them a scare tactic. Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda argued it’s simply inaccurate.

“Let’s be clear, there’s nothing in the legislation that took money from current programs,” Mosqueda said. “It is a miscommunication. It is intentionally misleading to tell any community organization that funding is at risk.”

Durkan will likely face an uphill battle against this legislation, given that it passed Monday by a veto-proof 7-1 margin. District 4 Councilmember Councilmember Abel Pacheco was the lone vote against the measure.

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Durkan reiterates veto threat, cites ‘irresponsible’ soda tax vote