The Yes! to Affordable Groceries coalition announced that the Washington Secretary of State has formally certified Initiative 1634 for the November 2018 ballot giving the voters the opportunity to make their voice heard on keeping groceries affordable. More than 1,000 small businesses have joined with farm bureaus, labor organizations, Chambers of Commerce and Washington residents to support I-1634 to protect our state from taxes on food and beverages. 381,479 signatures were submitted in support of I-1634, the Yes! To Affordable Groceries Act on July 6. The Secretary of State’s office examined a random sample of the signatures and found a validity rate of 82%, indicating that the initiative would meet the constitutional requirements to make the November ballot. Initiatives need at least 259,622 signatures to make the ballot.
“Initiative 1634 has generated such a strong and diverse base of support because voters are legitimately concerned with the rising cost of living and a regressive tax structure that are hitting families and independent community businesses the hardest,” said Jeff Philipps, coalition member and President of Rosauers Supermarkets.
While the Washington state government doesn’t currently collect taxes on food and beverages, there is a loophole in the law that lets local governments impose taxes on groceries. Grocery taxes hit working families the hardest, and cost the state jobs in a vital part of our economy. The Seattle City Council exploited this loophole in 2017 to pass a tax on beverages. The tax raised beverage prices astronomically, but prices on other products also went up as business owners worked to implement the complicated policy. There’s nothing to stop other cities and towns from doing the same thing with any grocery items.
I-1634 will close this loophole for any future new taxes on food and beverages. It does not reverse any taxes or revenue streams that currently exist.
We see local governments faced with budget challenges that are now considering revenue sources we wouldn’t have thought possible a few years back. For family farms and our farming community, taxes will undoubtedly take a toll on Agricultural viability and therefore cost local jobs and hurt farmers and ranchers, like me, ability to do business. There needs to be a better way to fund our priorities – we need to draw a line to keep groceries affordable and free of new taxes,” said April Clayton, coalition member and Vice President of Chelan/Douglas County Farm Bureau.
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The City of Seattle’s beverage tax is hurting small business owners, driving up prices and imposing more taxes on small businesses, restaurants and conveniences stores.
Working-class families and low-income and minority communities are among those feeling the greatest impact from the beverage tax as it worsens the income inequality throughout Seattle. The 1.75 cents per ounce tax on sweetened beverages was intended for distributors of the products, but customers are also noticing the price increase.
Keep Seattle Livable for All, a coalition of local small businesses and Seattle residents urging the City Council to consider the damaging effects of such an intrusive beverage tax, is working to support small business owners voice their concerns over the unfair beverage tax that is having detrimental impacts on their business.
German Arias of El Farol Mexican Restaurant stated, “My brother and I have worked within this business for over 30 years and this beverage tax has only added to all the other costs that we now have to face. We’ve had no choice but to raise our prices.”
Businesses that are noticing the impact the most are those near the Seattle border, as customers are making their way outside city limits to buy their beverages. The Seattle Times interviewed a small business owner near a city border who stated, “It’s near impossible for me to sell this now. They go over there, one block away, and there’s no tax.” This is just one of the many examples of customers taking their patronage to locations where there aren’t increased costs due to a beverage tax.
The unfair beverage tax is hurting Seattle small businesses and neighborhoods. Visit Keep Seattle Livable For All for more information and ways to take action against this discriminatory beverage tax. Stay up-to-date by following Keep Seattle Livable for All on Facebook and Twitter.
On January 1, the City of Seattle put into effect a new city-wide drink tax that will enforce distributors to pay 1.75 cents extra per ounce on soda and sugary drinks, driving up prices for consumers and worsening income inequality in Seattle.
Neighborhood businesses faced with the new tax are mostly small businesses, restaurants or conveniences stores with owners who are worried about their businesses’ bottom line. The tax predominantly impacts working-class families and low-income consumers, overall worsening the income inequality across Seattle.
The newly enforced tax was passed in June 2017 by the Seattle City Council and will not include diet drinks and sweetened products from certified manufacturers with an annual worldwide gross revenue of $2 million or less. Products from certified manufacturers with similar revenue of more than $2 million but less than $5 million will face paying a 1-cent-per-fluid ounce tax.
The tax is intended for distributors of the products, but will impact customers who will likely see a price increase on their receipt when they purchase most beverages including sports drinks, energy drinks, soda, and juice boxes. However, there has been increasing confusion among consumers and business owners about which sweetened beverages are taxed. For example, milk is the determining factor for coffee-shop beverages and certain grocery products. According to Seattle’s Finance and Administrative Services Department, products with milk listed as the first ingredient are exempt from the new tax.
This unfair beverage tax will hurt Seattle small businesses and potentially cost employees their jobs. Visit Keep Seattle Livable For All for more information and ways to share your voice regarding the damaging effects of the newly imposed tax.