Seattle’s $6M Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue tiff a fight over funding scraps for health and food programs

Monday’s City Council vote to dedicate funding from Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax to create new programs that promote healthy eating and social services sets up a battle with Mayor Jenny Durkan.

“By redirecting money for unknown new City of Seattle programs, the City Council’s plan eliminates funding for programs they previously approved that provide nutrition assistance, child care for struggling families, and nursing care for low-income pregnant women,” the mayor’s statement on the vote reads. “Despite voting for this funding last year, City Council’s plan now cuts funding committed to these programs without identifying the millions in other funds or cuts needed to continue these critical safety net services.”

The tiff comes over the city’s sweeter than expected revenue flow from its tax on sugary beverages that was originally earmarked for creating new programs related to “healthy food and beverage access, birth-to-three services and kindergarten readiness, a public awareness campaign about sugary drinks, support for people actively living with obesity and diabetes, community-based programs to support good nutrition and physical activity and evaluation support for those programs.”

But in the latest rounds of negotiating over the city’s now $5.9 billion budget, the council agreed to direct the funding to supporting a slate of existing programs including the Fresh Bucks food voucher program, food banks, child care assistance, and the Nurse Family Partnership. Monday’s vote was a move to get the sugar tax money channeled back to its original target. The battle over the $6 million or so in funding, then, is typical of the Durkan administration — focusing spending on a smaller set of existing resources vs. creating new, often progressive programs.

Durkan says she will stop the legislation despite the council’s “veto-proof” 7-1 vote Monday. Durkan can still veto the bill but must now specify objections in writing after the lopsided approval. The council would then have 30 days to reconsider the legislation and vote again.

 

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One thought on “Seattle’s $6M Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue tiff a fight over funding scraps for health and food programs

  1. This framing is very weird since it is the mayor who set up the battle v the council with some pretty blatant lies about what this tax initially intended and the budget process that led to yesterday’s vote.

    The council has been poised to do this for quite a while, it’s not some July surprise that requires this kind of offense from the mayor.

    As others have noted elsewhere, it’s a weird fight for the mayor to pick and double down on over 7 million dollars out of an almost-billion dollar budget.

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