Diet soda added to Seattle mayor's proposed sugary drink tax

WATCH ABOVE: Q13 News asked Murray why he decided to add diet soda to the proposal

SEATTLE -- Mayor Ed Murray announced Thursday that diet soda would be added to his proposed sugary drink tax -- morphing the plan into a "sweetened beverage tax."

In his original plan, diet soda was exempt from the tax.

A 1.75 cent sweetened beverage tax would be added to naturally and artificially sweetened drinks including soda, energy drinks, juice and sweetened teas in Seattle.

Where will the tax revenue go?

The proposed tax is part of an $18 million proposal to fund education and healthy food programs.

It's expected to raise $23 million for the first year, and $18 million in years following because consumption of sugary drinks is expected to decline.

According to the mayor's office, $5 million will go to the 13th Year program, allowing any graduate from a Seattle public high school to attend at least one year at the Seattle Colleges for free.

The Mayor's office says $10 million will go to the Education Action Plan, a series of programs aimed at eliminating the opportunity gap between white students and African American/Black and other students of color.

An additional $5.7 million will fund increased support for children from birth to five-years-old and their caregivers, such as prenatal care. And $3.2 million will fund expanded food access including the Fresh Bucks program, which provides low-income households vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables at local farmers markets.

“Healthy kids get better educations and are more likely to have a brighter future. The sweetened beverage tax transmitted today gives the City the financial resources to address each of these challenges," said Mayor Murray.

Will the tax really cut soda sales?

A similar tax has already gone to a few other cities. A study out of Berkeley shows the sales of sugary drinks went down nearly 10% in the year after the tax was imposed in the city. At the same time, sales of water and other untaxed drinks increased.

We asked one of the authors of the study if she thinks Seattle’s proposal would be effective.

“Our study to date would suggest this is a good public policy," said Dr. Lynn Silver.

Those opposed?

But not everyone is for it. The owner of Burger Boss in Seattle used his sign to advertise against the tax, when he learned it would double the cost of his fountain drinks.

The owner of Jones Soda is also against the tax.

"I think it targets one industry unnecessarily so. It doesn't really do anything to educate consumers about the health habits," said Jennifer Cue with Jones Soda.

Cue said the tax would impact their fountain drink business in Seattle.

A representative for Teamsters Local 174, a union representing blue collar and professional workers, says he has major concerns that the tax would eliminate jobs.

He says in Philadelphia, where there is a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax, soda workers are being laid off as people stop buying sugary-drinks. ShopRite said it would have to lay off 300 workers. Pepsi is laying off 80 to 100 workers in Philadelphia, blaming it on the soda tax.

Q13 News asked Mayor Murray to respond to the concerns about jobs.

Philadelphia brought in $7 million dollars in March from the tax that went into effect in January.

In Seattle, the price of a 99-cent 2-liter bottle of soda would jump to $2.17.

The beverage tax in Seattle will not go to the voters. It will be considered by a committee in the Seattle City Council in May with final council action in early June.

How much sugar is too much sugar?

The FDA recommends that no more than ten-percent of your daily calories come from added sugars. That is 50 grams, or about 12.5 teaspoons of sugar if you're on a 2,000 calorie diet.

A 20 ounce bottle of coke exceeds that daily recommendation, with 65 grams of sugar, or the equivalent of 15 teaspoons of sugar.