Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is praising the Seattle City Council for, as he puts it on his Facebook page, “stepping up” and passing a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. The bill now goes to Murray’s office to make it official; he is expected to sign it today.
Yesterday’s vote was 7 to 1, with City Councilmember Lisa Herbold the lone “no” voice. Councilmember Kshama Sawant did not attend.
Proponents of the bill had wanted the tax to cover diet sodas, as well, but settled for a tax that covered only sugar-sweetened beverages. Nonetheless, it will, they say, force lower-income families to make healthier drink choices and help fight still-rising obesity rates.
Opponents, on the other hand have voiced fears about a coming “nanny state”, as well as concerns of negative economic impact. Restaurant owners, for example, say that at 1.75 cents per ounce, the tax will nearly double the price of fountain drinks in restaurants.
There is also a question of just how fair this new tax really is. As the only councilmember who voted against it points out on her Facebook page, the law taxes sodas but not, apparently, some types of made-to-order coffee and tea drinks like those served at Seattle’s own coffee juggernaut–Starbucks. That, said Herbold this morning, makes this whole thing a pretty “sweet deal” for Starbucks.
Baby formulas, weight-loss products and drinks made of pure fruit juice, though, are clearly exempt from the tax.