Initiative 1634: Prohibiting grocery taxes

What does this measure mean for consumers?

Colleen Ford

U.S Capitol illustration vector courtesy

By Michael Brock, Editor In Chief

Initiative 1634, a measure to prohibit new local taxes from being placed on particular grocery items, will be on the Nov. 6 midterm election ballot.

The campaign for the measure has raised $20.2 million as of Oct. 17 and is funded primarily by The Coca-Cola Co. (more than $9.6 million), PepsiCo Inc. ($7.2 million), Dr Pepper Snapple Group ($3.0 million) and Red Bull (more than $200,000). The campaign against is funded by Washington Healthy Kids Coalition, which has raised a little more than $13,000 as of Oct. 17.

The advertisements for the measure, which are labeled “Yes! To Affordable Groceries,” say it would protect grocery items from any added tax and that it would aid in keeping groceries affordable. The opposition says the measure would give the state too much power and that the initiative is being manipulated by the soda industry.

The vast majority of newspaper editorial boards in Washington endorsed a “no” vote on 1634.

“Proponents of Initiative 1634 say it is to prevent taxes on essential food items, but this is misleading,” The Seattle Times’ editorial board wrote on Oct. 9. “Voters should reject this measure, which is really an industry-funded campaign to prevent cities from enacting taxes on soda.”

The Spokesman-Review, however, endorsed a “yes” vote on the measure.

“[The initiative process] is far too often polluted by special-interest money that pays for slick advertising to drive voters based on emotion and professional persuasion rather than reason,” the Spokesman-Review’s editorial board wrote on Oct. 23. “But in this case, Initiative 1634 would actually accomplish a worthwhile goal and bring some order and rationality to the mishmash of conflicting taxes that change depending on which community you live in.”