Budget & Finance

Ed. Advocates Brew Support For Seattle Espresso Tax

By Linda Jacobson — September 10, 2003 1 min read
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Early-childhood-education advocates in Seattle, the home of the Starbucks Coffee Corp., are hoping to tap espresso as a source of revenue for preschool programs.

Voters in the 570,000-resident city will decide next week whether to approve a 10-cent tax on espresso and other specialty coffee drinks to be used for expanding prekindergarten programs and providing more low-income families with child-care subsidies.

The tax could bring in more than $6 million a year, organizers of the Sept. 16 ballot measure predict. If Initiative 77 passes, a portion of the proceeds would also be used to create a program to reward both center- and home-based child-care providers with higher pay if they earn more education.

Supporters say they are fighting an uphill battle against the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and others who argue that the tax would hurt businesses.

“This is basically a grassroots campaign,” said Laura Paskin, a spokeswoman for the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle and one of the sponsors of the initiative.

The tax would cover drinks such as lattes, mochas, and similar menu items, but would not apply to regular drip coffee. And businesses earning less than $50,000 annually in gross receipts would not be subject to the tax.

Opponents say that such a levy would set a bad pattern.

In a statement, the chamber of commerce said: “Instituting this type of specialty tax unrelated to the program it would fund could set precedence for other specialty taxes, resulting in a tax system where citizens pay different tax rates depending on the products they buy, the services they use, or the businesses they frequent.”

Randy Pepple, a spokesman for JOLT, which stands for Joined in Opposition to the Latte Tax, added that opponents of the proposal are not against improving early-childhood programs.

“Child care is far too important an issue to depend on a specialty tax like this,” Mr. Pepple said.

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