OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A group backed by the soda industry is seeking to bar cities and counties in Washington state from imposing their own taxes on sodas or other sweetened beverages through a proposed statewide initiative.
The political committee, Yes! To Affordable Groceries, has submitted language for a proposed statewide initiative, The Daily Herald reported on Sunday.
They'll need to collect and turn in signatures from 259,622 registered voters by July 6 to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
The group's financial muscle comes from the American Beverage Association, with key donors including The Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc., Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. and Red Bull North America Inc.
A political coalition spreading the message includes the Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28, which represents beverage industry workers, the Washington Food Industry Association and the Korean-American Grocer's Association of Washington.
The initiative aims to prevent local governments from passing their own taxes on groceries. It does not prevent the state from doing so. Excluded from the tax are alcoholic beverages, tobacco and marijuana products, which are currently regulated and taxed by the state.
Pete Lamb, senior business agent for Teamsters Local 174, told The Herald that such taxes hurt low-income and working class families most. "We think people are fed up with regressive taxation. We think citizens of Washington have clearly seen what's taken place in Seattle and are not OK with this type of tax," Lamb said.
Supporters of a soda tax say it cuts down on the consumption of sugary drinks that have little nutritional value and are linked to obesity, diabetes and other health problems.
In June, Seattle joined a handful of cities nationwide including Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Oakland, California, in passing a tax on soda and other sugary beverages.
Seattle beverage distributors pay the tax of 1.75 cents per fluid ounce on sweetened beverages such as Pepsi and Coke, sports drinks, energy drinks and other drinks took effect earlier this year.
If passed, the proposed statewide initiative will not affect Seattle's soda tax. But it would prevent Seattle from increasing or expanding that tax.