As an Edmonds resident and small business owner in Snohomish County for more than 20 years, I’ve been amazed at some of the poorly written laws that have come out of Olympia. The recent tax scheme the legislature imposed on foods and beverages, however, is one of the worst.
That’s why I’m voting yes on 1107, to repeal the Legislature’s new taxes on food and beverage products.
The politicians in Olympia imposed new and higher taxes on thousands of grocery products, including soda, carbonated fruit juices, snacks, baking products, and candies and bottled water. Small, family-owned, local distributors of beverage products are being hit hard as well as other Washington-based businesses, including confection makers, food companies and grocery stores. Taxes were also increased on Washington businesses that produce locally-made canned and packaged food products containing meat, fruits and vegetables.
These new taxes will cost Washington state grocery shoppers and businesses more than $300 million over the next three years. It is important for voters to remember that not one penny of these taxes is dedicated to anything specific. It all goes into the general fund for the politicians to spend any way they want.
As a mom, and a grocery shopper, I’m also concerned because these new taxes on food and beverages make no sense. This could be explained by looking at the way in which these tax increases were passed into law: During the final hours of a special legislative session without adequate public input or time for debate, the Legislature rushed through a complicated, unfair tax scheme that is poorly written, costs Washington consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, and puts Washington businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
The Legislature’s new tax scheme is so complicated that many grocers — particularly small, independent grocers — are left scratching their heads about which products are taxed and which are not. You’ve heard the stories: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are taxed, but a Twix bar is exempt. It’s ridiculous. Grocers are now spending time reading candy-bar ingredient labels and consulting the Department of Revenue’s website to figure out what to tax and what not to tax.
Some grocers have given up and simply tax it all. Predictably, the government said that was fine as long as the tax money was remitted to the state! So now, not only will consumers pay sales taxes on confection and candy purchases, but Washington grocery stores are now burdened with costly new bookkeeping requirements and red tape.
And the Legislature’s new taxes apply to more than just candy and soda. The new taxes are applied to baking items like the chocolate chips we stir into homemade chocolate chip cookie recipes, and the fruit snacks I buy for my daughter’s lunch box. Even healthy snacks like yogurt covered raisins, honey roasted nuts and organic energy bars are defined as “candy” and taxed – along with sugar-free candy and soda, and carbonated juice drinks. Meanwhile, a Kit Kat bar is defined as “food” – and not taxed – because it contains flour.
Even worse, all the new taxes go to the state’s general fund. This is the same general fund that has grown some 43 percent over the last 10 years — to a current budget of $35 billion. My family, like others, has tightened the belt significantly since this recession started; why can’t Olympia show the same fiscal restraint? Spending by our state’s politicians has risen every year since these tough economic times started, and now they are taxing our groceries. What items in the grocery store will Olympia decide to tax next?
A yes vote on 1107 — to repeal the new taxes on food and beverages — is supported by more than 30,000 Washington consumers, businesses and organizations, including the Northwest Grocery Association, the Washington Restaurant Association, the Washington Farm Bureau, the Washington Association of Neighborhood Stores, the Association of Washington Businesses, NFIB and many others. I urge my Edmonds neighbors to join with us in voting YES on 1107—to repeal the unfair and confusing taxes on foods and beverages. Thank you!
Kathryn Stenger is a mom and small business owner who lives in Edmonds, and is a spokesperson for the YES on 1107 Coalition.