EDITORIAL: Initiative 1634 is worth a ‘yes’ vote

The price of everything continues to rise.

A couple of quarter and dimes here and there eventually add up to several dollars.

That’s why The Chronicle’s editorial board recommends a “yes” vote on state Initiative 1634 to prevent a hike on prices at the grocery store.

The initiative would prohibit local government entities from imposing any new tax, fee or other assessment on grocery items.

To be clear, Initiative 1634 would still allow the state to impose taxes on groceries, which is key to those opposed to the initiative.

“Special interest groups across the country, and here in Washington, are proposing taxes on groceries like meats, dairy and juices — basic necessities for all families,” said a statement from “Yes! To Affordable Groceries,” a committee supporting the initiative.

“Higher grocery prices don’t hurt the wealthy elites but crush the middle class and those on fixed incomes, including the elderly.

“I-1634 takes a proactive step to close this loophole and prevent any new taxes on food, beverages and their ingredients in Washington. Having a measure in place to prevent these types of sweeping taxes is important to Washington’s small businesses, restaurants, grocers and working families.”

Earlier this year the city of Seattle enacted a 1.75 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages (sports drinks, energy drinks, soda, juice), raising the cost of a case of soda from about $9.99 to $17.55.

The Seattle Times reported the tax generated more than $10 million in the first six months.

Sure, the government can likely find a way to spend the extra money, but for what cost to the taxpayer — or in this case, shopper?

Spokane city officials pondered a similar idea, too, but didn’t peruse it because of public opposition.

It’s easy to look at the large contributions to “Yes! To Affordable Groceries” from major soft drink beverage companies (more than $8 million) and consider it an assault on sugary sweet drinks.

But, as with most taxes, there is a trickle-down effect that affects local residents in their pocket books.

In Seattle, for example, the beverage tax also caused a hike in other products such as juice drinks, teas, coffees and almond milk.

Sure, the argument can be made that there should be stronger regulations of sugary foods and beverages in regard to health risks, but we simply can’t afford for local government to hike up the price at the grocery store.

We trust voters to examine issues before making an informed decision, but when it comes to Initiative 1634, we recommend a “yes” vote.

Ballots for the Nov. 6 election will be mailed to Okanogan County voters on Oct.18.

People who have not received their ballots by Friday Oct. 26 are asked to contact the auditor’s office on the first floor of the courthouse, 149 N. Third Ave., or call 509-422-7240.

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