Seattle's Mayor Murray proposes sugary-drink tax to pay for helping students of color

SEATTLE – Mayor Ed Murray on Tuesday proposed a tax on sugary drinks, with the money going toward closing the opportunity gap between white students and students of color.

A statement from the mayor’s office said the tax could also go a long way toward fighting obesity in the city.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said soda taxes are ‘the single most effective remedy to reverse the obesity epidemic,’” the statement reads. “A similar tax in Berkeley, Calif. reduced the consumption of sugary drinks by 20 percent.”

The ordinance would tax sugary drinks two cents per ounce and would include soda, energy and sports drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened teas and ready-to-drink coffee drinks. In-store prepared coffee, 100 percent fruit juice, and infant formula would be among the exempt beverages.

The proposed tax would be expected to raise about $16 million. The money would go toward funding recommendations from the Education Summit Advisory group.

The ordinance would include drinks that use a specific amount of caloric sweetener, syrups, and powders that are used to prepare sugary beverages.

Mark Shriver, the president of the Save the Children Action Network, called the proposal a win-win in a statement.

“In addition to providing funding for early learning programs, sugary drink tax revenues can be invested in low-income communities disproportionately affected by health conditions caused by sugary drinks, while also raising revenue for crucial programs that improve health both directly and indirectly, like chronic disease prevention programs and public safety,” the statement reads.