The Seattle Times reports a group has begun to organize an initiative campaign to block communities from imposing local soda taxes.
After watching Seattle’s soda tax take effect last month, the beverage industry and its allies have begun an initiative campaign aimed at stopping other Washington communities from adopting similar taxes.
“Yes! To Affordable Groceries” registered as a ballot committee Monday with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.
While they want to stop the proliferation of the soda tax, the group is not attempting to get rid of the tax in Seattle.
The committee won’t try to roll back Seattle’s 1.75-cents-per-ounce tax on the distribution of beverages such as sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks, which took effect Jan. 1.
“We are not trying to change any current revenue streams already passed by local governments,” the flyer says. “But Washingtonians need to draw the line at attempts to tax food and beverages that make groceries unaffordable … We should stop these taxes from spreading now.”
We’ve written about these targeted sin-nish taxes before. Cook County repealed its version of the soda tax last October, finding it to be regressive, unpopular and ineffective. The Tax Foundation has analyzed Philadelphia’s experience with a soda tax. TF concludes,
A number of cities like Seattle and San Francisco have enacted soda taxes, and states occasionally propose them. Generally, these policies are aimed specifically at combating obesity and the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. The stated goal of the Philadelphia soda tax as a revenue-raising measure differs from other areas, and it makes the city’s underperforming tax collections all the more noteworthy.
Despite constituent support for the programs funded by the tax, the actual revenue for programs remains unstable due to poor collection performance, with potential that those revenues will continue to fall. The legal battles and consumer angst the tax has attracted make the tax unattractive as well. Other localities wishing to avoid these travails should seek funding for programs with broader-based, more predictable tax instruments.
The last time voters had a chance to weigh in on selective food and beverage tax increases was in 2010, with Initiative 1107. Voters approved the measure, which repealed taxes imposed by the Legislature that year.