(This guest post is by Seattle City Council member Jean Godden, chair of the council’s budget committee. The voters' guide has more information about Initiative 1107 here.)
First of all, the truth squad. I need to address the deceptive messages in those “Yes on 1107” ads. Just to be clear: There is no food tax in Washington State. Period. Secondly, Initiative 1107 is brought to you by the American Beverage Association, the national lobbying group for the big soda companies. The $16 million campaign is THE most expensive initiative campaign in our state’s history, and is funded entirely by the beverage people. Now that I’ve cleared that up, I want to make sure you know how I-1107 will hurt the City of Seattle.
We’ve all heard about the damage Initiative 1107 will do to the state budget. Less well known is the impact I-1107 will have on cities throughout Washington. The non-partisan Office of Financial Management (OFM) estimates I-1107 will cut local government funds by $83 million over the next five years. For Seattle, this will mean a loss of about $1.2 million a year. The city is already dealing with a projected shortfall of nearly $67 million for next year; I-1107 will make an already difficult situation even worse. The 373 local jurisdictions throughout the state authorized to impose a sales tax (such as counties, cities and transit districts), will all take a hit if I-1107 is approved.
While $83 million over five years is a sizable amount of money, it’s only the beginning of the impact I-1107 will have on cities. The state’s budget crisis is even worse now than it was last spring, when these taxes were enacted. If I-1107 is approved, the taxes on soda, candy, gum and bottled water will be repealed, and the services those taxes are funding—such as early learning for low income children; K-12 and higher ed funding; Apple Health funding for low-income children; and maternity support services for low-income women with high-risk pregnancies—will be cut.
These cuts will hurt the most vulnerable people in the state: low-income families, children and senior citizens; immigrants and the disabled. Recently released Census data shows that the total poverty rate in Washington grew by 0.9 percentage points from 11.4 percent in 2007 to 12.3 percent in 2009. Poverty among Latinos, Native Americans and African Americans was considerably higher than the statewide average.
Cuts to education and health care will affect people across the state, but especially so in Seattle, the most populous and diverse city in the state. Already over-crowded waiting rooms and classrooms will overflow, not to mention the long-term negative impacts from lack of prenatal care or an under-educated workforce. As residents lose access to state services, more pressure will be put on cities and counties to make up the slack. Unfortunately, our already-stressed cities and counties will be unable to meet the need. So for the sake of Seattle and the rest of the state—vote NO on 1107!