Seattle mayor proposes tax on sugary drinks to help fund education

SEATTLE -- Mayor Ed Murray is proposing a sugary drink tax, something that’s been done in other major cities. It includes sodas, energy and sports drinks, pre-sweetened teas and coffees and even some fruit drinks.

The ordinance exempts such beverages as 100% fruit juice, in-store prepared coffee beverages, infant formula, medicine, and would NOT apply to “diet” beverages.

This proposed ordinance would put a 2-cent tax per ounce on distributors. Distributors say it will likely trickle down to consumers.

The money is to help fund education, but not everyone is on board with the plan. George O’Connor, the owner of Ken’s Market in Queen Anne in Seattle, believes the tax will hurt small businesses like his and also hurt consumers.

“I`m kind of annoyed,” said O’Connor. “More tax and more tax -- when's it going to stop?”

The mayor says the tax would fund education and help eliminate the opportunity gap between affluent and poor students -- all while fighting the obesity epidemic by reducing consumption of sugary drinks.

Parents like Brecken Diller support it.

“I think it`s a good thing,” said Diller. “We don`t drink soda. We`ve got two boys, and I know the tax. The proceeds of it are going to education. My wife is a school teacher, and so I think it`s actually a really good thing.”

The proposed tax is expected to raise $16 million per year to fund programs recommended by the Education Summit Advisory Group.

Last year, three cities in California, along with Boulder, Colorado, voted to pass a soda tax measure. They joined Berkeley and Philadelphia, who passed something similar in 2014. However, in 2010, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg aggressively tried to pass a tax but failed.

According to The New York Times, researchers at Berkeley studied people in that city, along with San Francisco and Oakland. Four months after the tax went into place, the amount of people drinking sugary drinks did fall by 21 percent, but only in Berkeley. In the other two cities, it went up 4 percent.