Murray revises soda tax proposal to cast wider net
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's proposed soda tax will now include diet beverages.
Murray's original plan only included sugary drinks and received pushback. He said Thursday that the addition of diet drinks comes out of a desire for equity.
"The data tended to show that diet soda tends to be more upper middle class white people, and the high sugar soda and the like tend to be in minority communities," Murray said.
The levy will also be slightly lower than originally proposed.
If the City Council passes the measure, distributors will be taxed 1.75 cents per ounce for sugary and sweetened drinks, instead of the originally proposed 2 cents per ounce.
The tax includes sodas, energy and sports drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened teas and ready-to-drink coffee drinks. Infant formula, 100 percent fruit juice, medicine and milk-based products are exempt.
Murray said the money raised would go towards healthy food programs for low-income families and school programs to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color.
"Like STEM extra-curricular classes, reducing school disparities in discipline, and providing one free year of college at one of our Seattle colleges to all public school students who graduate," he said.
Officials say the measure could help lower rates of obesity and diabetes.
Research shows similar taxes elsewhere have reduced consumption of sugary drinks.
Murray said it would raise about $23 million in the first year and $18 million annually as demand goes down.
But some business and labor groups are urging the Seattle City Council to reject the tax.
Jennifer Cue, CEO of Jones Soda, said their sales would take a hit if this levy is put in place.
"You know, I really want to plead with the mayor and the council members. Just because other cities have gone along and done it doesn't mean that it's right. So I think Seattle could easily take the lead and be innovative by creating something that's a bit more broad based, that doesn't impact one industry so much," Cue said.
The City Council will consider and possibly amend the proposal over the next couple of months.