Washington Senate Proposes Statewide Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Washington state senators have introduced Senate Bill 5371 (SB 5371), which would impart a tax of $0.0175 per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages that have more than 20 calories in a 12-ounce serving on beverage distributors. In other words, a 12-ounce can of soda would cost an additional 21 cents. SB 5371 sponsors, State Senators Robinson, Carlyle, Conway, Dhingra, Pedersen, and Saldaña, have said that while other cities around the country have similar type taxes, Washington would be the first state to establish a statewide tax on sweetened beverages.
Funds raised from the tax would support public health programs, as well as create a “health equity account” that will hold money to be used to address social determinants of health in disproportionately impacted communities burdened by negative health outcomes, with a particular focus on access to healthy foods, reducing food insecurity, an access to health care, as well as supporting community infrastructure and capacity.
SB 5371 is nearly identical to Seattle’s 2018 Sweetened Beverage Tax, however the statewide version imposes a tax on sugary drinks defined as those containing 20 calories or more per 12 ounces, whereas Seattle’s is on sugary drinks with 40 calories or more per 12 ounces. A summary of the Seattle tax, and other citywide sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, can be found here.
SB 5371 was introduced on January 28, and was referred to the Senate Health & Long Term Care committee. If passed, SB 5371 would become effective on October 1, 2021. Beginning July 1, 2022, and yearly thereafter, the tax rate would be adjusted to reflect the yearly increase in the consumer price index.