Instead of harmful taxes that don’t make anyone healthier, public health advocates, government and industry should work together on meaningful steps that improve the health of individuals and communities.
A nickel here, a dime there is becoming a quarter here and a half-dollar there. When it comes to the essentials like food and beverages, these cost increases are painful. Higher grocery prices don’t hurt Seattle millionaires, but they crush middle-class and fixed-income families. Initiative 1634, the November ballot measure that would put an end to new local taxes on food and beverages, is the proactive step we need to protect our most vulnerable communities.
The coalition in support of I-1634 represents the entire economic and social spectrum in Washington. Farmers concerned with the impact of taxes on the supply chain, ranchers hearing rumblings that meat may be a future target, small-business owners faced with a hodgepodge of local assessments that hit their bottom line and threatens jobs, and unions fighting for working families impacted by higher costs and lost wages are all united behind this measure.
For me, it’s about our communities carrying the weight on Seattle’s regressive tax structure that puts too much burden on those who live paycheck to paycheck. This is about fairness and affordability. I-1634 is our opportunity to close a loophole that allows local lawmakers to lean directly on our families and neighborhoods for revenue, when that is in fact the last place they should look.
Some may argue that these types of taxes are necessary to address social-health issues. We welcome a conversation about increased access to affordable, fresh groceries in our communities. But the path to healthy eating should not be paved by taxes on those who can least afford it. Instead of harmful taxes that don’t make anyone healthier, public-health advocates, government and industry should work together on meaningful steps that improve the health of individuals and communities. The better solution to drive meaningful change is through education and collaboration, not arbitrary taxes targeting those who can least afford them.
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Let’s be clear, this threat of higher food and beverage taxes exists. While the Washington state government doesn’t currently collect sales taxes on food and beverages, there is a loophole in the law that lets local governments impose taxes on groceries. To see how this loophole is being exploited, look no further than the Seattle beverage tax that not only raised beverage prices astronomically, but also resulted in an increase in prices on other essential products as business owners worked to implement this complicated policy. This isn’t a threat or prediction — this is a current reality for those of us living in Seattle.
These excessive prices are hitting those who can least afford it — consumers who are fighting to make ends meet and our neighborhood businesses who will suffer from lost sales. There’s nothing to stop other cities and towns from doing the same thing with any grocery items.
Those who object to I-1634 because it cedes local control to the state have missed the mark. I-1634 wouldn’t take away voter choice — it gives choice to voters in matters that are typically decided by city councils and not the people. There was no vote on the Seattle beverage tax, it was quietly passed by a city council who cast this as a measure for social good without conducting any research to see how it would harm our neighborhood businesses and impact struggling communities.
I-1634 gives us an opportunity to take a stand for affordability and fairness. Voting yes on this measure in November will help prevent excessive taxes on food and beverages in Seattle and throughout the state and protect what we value the most, our families and our communities.