Seattle City Council approves sweetened beverage tax restrictions, Durkan plans to veto

SEATTLE  -- The Seattle City Council voted to approve restrictions on the sweetened beverage tax.  That’s after city councilmembers and community organizers say they want to make sure the money is being used for the original intended purpose.

The sweetened beverage tax was designed to cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks, like soda, and use the funds to help local families by expanding access to healthy foods and early learning programs.  Councilmembers say Monday's bill makes sure the money goes towards the programs it was intended for and not other priorities through the city's general fund.

“We should dedicate this money from the sweetened beverage tax and continue to fully fund human services,” says Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

By a 7-1 vote, the council passed legislation that would require extra revenue from the city’s tax on sugar-sweetened beverages be used to increase funding for healthy food and education assistance programs in communities hit hardest by the tax.  We heard from members of the community advisory board, who talked about the original intentions of the tax and their concerns.

“The CAB, or community advisory board, is really committed to ensuring that the revenues are invested and expanding access to healthy foods and to the other programs in early childhood education. New programs and expanded programs, that’s the intent of the legislation. That was what was promised to the community when this tax was adopted,” says James Krieger with the Community Advisory Board.

Mayor Jenny Durkan says she’s disappointed by the city council’s vote to pass this legislation.  In a press release she says it creates a significant hole in the city’s budget and cuts funding for critical low-income programs.

She says despite voting for this funding last year, the city council's plan now cuts funding committed to programs like nutrition assistance, childcare for struggling families and nursing care for low-income pregnant women, without identifying the millions in other funds or cuts needed to continue these services.  Mayor Dukan says she will veto the bill in the coming days.