Espresso tax rejected
Sep 18, 2003
Seattle voters poured cold water on plans to tax espresso coffee to help poor children, deciding in an initiative on Wednesday that a 10 cent per cup tax was just too much to swallow.
With 97% of the vote counted, 68% of voters said no to the proposed tax on every cup of espresso or espresso-based coffee sold in the hometown of Starbucks.
In a vote on another issue, Seattle voters also approved a law that tells police to give enforcement of drug laws against marijuana possession the lowest priority so that they can spend more time protecting homes, streets and neighbourhoods.
In a vote hailed by marijuana advocates as the most progressive in the United States, more than 58% of voters endorsed a bill that explicitly requires authorities to "make cases involving marijuana offences, in which the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the city's lowest law enforcement priority."
Espresso enthusiasts hailed the coffee tax rebuff. "As we said all along, this is the wrong way to fund child care," said Stephanie Bowman, coordinator for Joined to Oppose the Latte Tax (JOLT). The tax money would have been used to fund day care for poor children.
"Everybody should be paying for these programs, not just coffee drinkers. Not with a gimmick like the Seattle latte tax," Bowman said.
Starbucks, Tully's Coffee and small coffee shops had argued that there were no grounds for a tax on espresso since it singled out coffee for taxation and would hurt store sales.
While protesters against the espresso taxes all said they supported child care, they called the plan a "slippery" slope because other everyday products could be targeted to pay for public services.
"We were very disappointed of course," said Anya Waring, campaign manager for the espresso tax initiative. "We thought it was going to be a lot closer."
The result defied expectations by supporters for the Early Learning and Child Care campaign, which sponsored the initiative and collected signatures from more than 35,000 people to get the proposition on Tuesday's ballot.
Under the proposed tax, called Initiative 77, regular drip coffee would have been exempt from the espresso tax.
Various local polls had predicted that 65% to 75% of Seattle residents would support the initiative.