“Addressing equity in education and health are paramount challenges to ensure everyone has access to opportunity in Seattle. It is imperative that we proactively support Seattle Public School students and improved food access with frontline programs that put equity first. Healthy kids get better educations and are more likely to have a brighter future.”
– Mayor Ed Murray
- Seattle Education Action Plan | Resolution
- Sweetened Beverage Tax Ordinance
- Fact Sheets:
New Investments in Eliminating Education Disparities
Mayor Murray convened a 2016 Education Summit to address disparities between white students and students of color. The following investments are based on these recommendations, reflecting extensive community engagement. Totals below reflect ongoing annual investment levels for K-12 programs, after a lower investment in the first year to allow for ramping up programs and a one-time 13th Year program investment.
Preserving Seattle’s Fresh Bucks and Expanding Food Access
Fresh Bucks is a popular program that allows shoppers who receive Basic Food assistance to double their money. When you spend $10 with your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card at a Seattle Farmers Market or Farm Stand, you get $10 in Fresh Bucks to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and edible plant starts. The goal of the current Fresh Bucks program is to support consumption of more fruits and vegetables by low-income recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The Mayor is proposing to invest $3.2 million annually to support the current Fresh Bucks program and invest in expanded food access strategies. In order to preserve the current Fresh Bucks program, City funds are needed as the program is supported by federal grants that are not expected to be renewed by the Trump Administration. In addition, to address concerns about those who do not qualify for SNAP benefits and others who do not have access
New Sweetened Beverage Tax
To fund these investments in education and food access, Mayor Murray has proposed a local tax on naturally and artificially sweetened drinks including soda, energy drinks, juice and sweetened teas. The proposed ordinance would impose a $0.0175 per ounce tax on distributors of sugar sweetened drinks.
Several other cities have implemented similar taxes to fund critical issues such as education, and have found additional health benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said soda taxes are “the single most effective remedy to reverse the obesity epidemic,” and a similar tax in Berkeley, Calif. reduced the consumption of sugary drinks by 10 percent.
The proposed tax is expected to raise $23 million in the first year, and $18 million per year after due to projected declines in sweetened beverage consumption, to be used to fund programs recommended by the Education Summit Advisory Group, Birth to Five programs and programs aimed at providing healthy food access to low-income residents in Seattle. As a declining source of income, not all revenues raised will be invested in ongoing programs. The first year, 20 percent of the revenue raised will be invested in one time capital or time-limited projects such as the creation of water bottling filling stations or health education programs.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who would pay?
The tax will be levied on distributors of sweetened beverages and related products in the City. The tax would be applied to all distributors regardless of the size of the business.
What products would be subject to the tax?
The ordinance defines sweetened beverages to include liquids with caloric and non-caloric (diet) sweeteners, syrups and powders that are used to prepare sweetened beverages, including:
- Energy and sports drinks
- Fruit drinks
- Sweetened teas
- Ready-to-drink coffee drinks
The ordinance exempts such beverages as 100% fruit juice, infant formula, medicine and milk-based products.
What about concerns regarding the impact on those with low-incomes and communities of color?
Staff from the Mayor’s office and the office of Councilmember Tim Burgess completed a Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) in order to address the disparate impacts that the proposed tax may have on people with low-incomes and communities of color. After engaging in discussions with community advocates, public health professionals and business owners, the inclusion of diet drinks, increased investments in healthy food access and lowering the tax emerged as recommendations that could address the disparate impact of the proposed tax on these communities.