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Seattle Mayor Murray defends his proposed soda tax

Seattle has proposed a 2 cent per ounce soda tax. Jannes Fockele, Flickr
LISTEN: Mayor Murray admits soda tax would disproportionally impact people of color

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray knows that soda sales will drop in his city once a proposed tax takes effect.

“When you raise this tax, we know revenue will go down,” Murray told KIRO Radio’s Jason and Burns Show. “The initial estimates are that you might start out with $30 million, but we think we will end up with $16 million.”

Related: Beverage association argues soda tax will harm small business

Murray notes that the estimates are based on some level of continued soda consumption after the tax is in place. The tax would place a 2 cent charge on every ounce of sugary beverage from soda to some types of fruit drinks, energy drinks, and certain types of sweetened teas and ready-to-drink coffee beverages. Diet sodas would be exempt.

The tax would be placed on distributors and will likely be passed on down to the consumer.

Because sales and revenue — and in turn taxes — will decrease, the city will take in less money over time. But Murray has a plan that will take over once beverage sales decline. He wants to continue a Family and Education levy in Seattle. The goals of both taxes are in line with how Murray is ultimately selling the soda tax.

Targeting the soda tax

Murray says that the tax will go toward educational programs meant to provide more equal opportunities to African American students in disadvantaged areas of Seattle.

Yet such a tax, Jason Rantz points out, is likely to hit those same disadvantaged areas the most. Reports indicate that people from poorer sectors of society consume more sugary beverages. Similar reports have indicated that African-American communities are consuming more sugary beverages.

“Where you see the most support for this, where the data shows it, is from those communities,” Murray responded. “Because they know they are being targeted just the same way they were targeted by tobacco companies. They also know that when you are using it for something that will improve the lives of their children, as we are doing around education outcomes for young African Americans … they get it.”

The mayor points out that 20 years ago, roughly 40 percent of African-American students in Seattle graduated late, or not at all.

“Twenty years later, the number is exactly the same,” he said.

“There is no better way to change health outcomes than someone who graduates from high school,” Murray said. “Data shows they will live a very different life, and a much healthier life. A person who graduates from high school is more likely to have stable relationships in their lives, their marriage will last longer. Those things all contribute to health.”

The soda tax still has yet be considered by the city council before it can be approved and implemented in Seattle.

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