Council members want changes in Seattle soda tax

SEATTLE — The tax would be charged to the distributors of sugary soft drinks. It's expected to raise $23 milliion in 2018.

Education is at the top of the mayor's priorities for spending the money, especially to eliminate the opportunity gap that affects students of color.

Today City Council members noticed only 14 percent of the money is dedicated to health.

“If we're going to be honest that we're going to have a war on sugar and we're concerned about obesity and diabetes and we're concerned about health, I think we need more money dedicated to that very cause,” said Council Member Debora Juarez.

Council Member Lisa Herbold agreed, “It makes, I think, a lot more sense when we're talking with constituents about why they're paying this tax to be able to tell them the money from the tax is going to address the problem of the product that we're taxing.”

The proposed tax on sugary drinks is 1 and 3/4 cents per ounce. If distributors pass it all to consumers.

The price of a 99-cent 2-liter bottle of pop would go to $2.17.

A 12-pack of soda would cost an extra $2.50.

So Teamsters who work for the soft drink companies fear the tax will discourage buyers and cost them their jobs.

“In an area where we are already taxed like crazy, in what is one of the highest, most rapidly growing, and most expensive places to live -- we don't need another tax on something like this especially when it targets a specific group of people,” said Teamster Adam Murphy

But supporters of the tax say the evidence of job loss is inconclusive, “People are shifting their beverage choices. Nobody is spending less money in the stores,” said Victor Colman of the Seattle Healthy Kids Coalition.

A vote on the sugary drink tax could come as early as next month. If the council approves, it will take effect in January.