Seattle Passes Sugary Beverage Tax

Jun 5, 2017

The Seattle City Council approved a tax on sugary beverages in a 7-1 vote Monday. 

After months of debate, the council passed a 1.75 cents-per-ounce tax on beverage distributors. The drinks affected include soda, sports drinks and energy drinks.

Diet drinks, baby formula, medicine, weight-loss drinks and 100 percent fruit juice were explicitly exempted. It's unclear whether syrup-flavored coffee drinks like lattes will be included.

Mayor Ed Murray first talked about the tax in February. Since then, everything from the goal of the tax to the programs it would fund to which drinks would be taxed has been debated.

"As is true with much of the legislation we pass here, it's a balancing act between what's the right thing to do, what's the evidence, what's the science show," Councilmember Tim Burgess said.

In the end, the estimated $15 million expected to be raised will go toward healthy eating, food security and education programs for vulnerable children.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold was the lone nay vote. She said not taxing diet drinks or explicitly including sweetened coffee beverages was unfair.

"I offered amendments to address my concerns about the punitive nature of the tax ... as well as the impact on people of color, jobs and small businesses," Herbold said.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant was absent.

Mayor Murray is expected to sign the ordinance into law Tuesday morning.