Seattle Voters Say NO to Latte Tax

Published November 1, 2003

Voters in Seattle, Washington rejected a 10 cent per cup tax on upscale coffee–by a resounding 68-32 margin–on September 16.

In Seattle, known as the “coffee capital of the world,” some 600,000 residents consume 200,000 cups of lattes per day at local establishments. Tax proponents hoped the “dime per cup” tax would raise up to $7 million per year, which local government officials said would be spent on extra public school programs for low-income families.

Calling the latte tax proposal, I-77, “a noble but ill-conceived measure [that] should be rejected by Seattle voters,” the Municipal League publicly opposed the referendum. The list of opponents was in fact long, including the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce; Washington Restaurant Association; former mayors Charles Royer, Norm Rice, and Wes Uhlman; State Representative Helen Sommers; the Young Democrats; and many other business, government, and community leaders. All saw I-77 as “setting a dangerous precedent for tax policy and a flawed mechanism for funding important childcare services.”

“We’ve been working hard to strengthen our economy and improve Seattle’s business climate. We do not need another tax, especially one that unfairly taxes one product for the sake of funding a program that has nothing to do with it. Tax espresso today–what would be next?” asked the Chamber in a news release.

John Skorburg is managing editor of Budget & Tax News. His email address is [email protected].