Why You Should Have Voted Yes on Initiative 1634

Gavin Herrington, Staff

As political turmoil was reignited with the recently passed mid-term elections which included a multitude of impactful initiatives to be considered, a state of renewal was ushered in bringing forth a future the people of Washington designed with their votes.

There were various problematic issues many of these initiatives attempted to resolve, amongst them was Initiative 1634, which prevents local governments from establishing taxes on grocery products, an initiative I undeniably was and still am in favor of because it allows consumers to purchase more affordable groceries and it doesn’t attempt to subliminally micromanage individual dietary decisions.

Although Initiative 1634 fell in accordance with my ideological guidelines, I did have a major critique behind the motivations of the initiative, which was the outpouring of unrelenting support (via contributions and endorsements) by large beverage industries searching for profits to add to already unfathomable amounts of wealth which I criticize fervently.

The affordability of groceries for lower-income families has been a persistent problem plaguing many Americans. A report from UC Davis in 2017 said “an estimated 39.7 million Americans lived in poverty” which means the poverty rate is roughly 13.9 percent nationwide also including supplemental poverty measures. This statistic also isn’t accounting for exclusively Washington citizens residing in extreme poverty or the children, in fact the University of Washington reported in 2017, “the poverty rate for children remains higher than the general rate. Statewide, 13.7 percent of Washington children live in households under the poverty threshold, which is $24,339 for a family of four.”

Besides these impoverished children, Washington overall has 14.1 percent of residents living below the poverty line which is about one in every seven people existing in these conditions. Also, it is notable to point out these statistics aren’t even mentioning the people barely above the poverty line. So, when analyzing this information, it’s easy to conclude the difficulty a measly increase to the price of grocery goods could impose on a family when viewing the macro picture, the fragility of impoverished family’s budget which also extend to paying for housing, maintenance and other bills like car insurance, which everybody in Washington is legally required to purchase.

In addition to the local government’s taxation, we already were obligated to pay state sales tax which is at minimum 6.5 percent excluding the additional taxes individual cities could impose. In the city of Puyallup for example, sales tax is 9.9 percent, 3.4 percent more than the state sales tax. Even with a seemingly minor increase those under extreme poverty have their spending accumulate. This is a major gripe I had with the municipal governments, the ability to assert their own sales tax rate and it affected and until many Washingtonians.

Besides negative economic impacts additional applied taxes forced upon low income families statewide, I am opposed principally to what these taxes are ultimately attempting to achieve which is creating a deterrent to stop consumers, particularly children, from purchasing unhealthy grocery items as the Healthy Kids Coalition and Healthy Inmates for Healthy Minds are Voting support against Initiative 1634 clearly indicated.

Although I sympathize with the concerns of parents in their attempt to lower child obesity rates and help their children create better dietary decisions, most Washingtonians are responsible adults with the cognitive capability to determine whether they should ignore the effects a product may have. So, the point I’m making is that responsibility befalls upon the provider/caretaker to provide healthier alternatives to their children, not more sales taxes. I passionately believe adult citizens shouldn’t be punished by overprotective parents trying to ineffectively micromanage their children’s habits and in doing so, undermine everyone’s ability to purchase less expensive groceries.

Now, despite my ideological alignment with Initiative 1634 from a practical and principled perspective I refuted and still refute one aspect of it that is non-substantive. The committee in that was in support of eliminating local sales tax was called Yes! To Affordable Groceries which in theory appears to be a noble sentiment from the title alone but this group consisted of giant corporations including The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Inc., Keurig-Dr. Pepper and Red Bull North America who collectively had compiled $20.21 million together in their campaign, 99.8 percent of which was contributions by the companies directly. It’s obvious these corporations were looking to increase their profit margin whilst pretending to represent the real concerns of the people, which is something I was completely against.

One of my most definitive and strongest objections is to unjustifiably hungry companies becoming involved in the political realm of ideas for profit is because of the massive corruption and incentive/appeal of money usually leading politicians to abandon their principles. In fact, I believe all political campaigns or movements should only receive contributions exclusively from the people thus making politicians accountable to represent their constituents instead of favoring special interests.

This doesn’t just apply to these sponsors, but they weren’t an exception to the current corruption. But, despite my disagreement with the motivations behind the pro-movement, I’d say this is an unusual case where the common person and the corporation mutually benefited from this type of legislation. So, in stating that, I will conclude disregarding my ethical objections, this legislation is quite positive for most Washingtonians.

Overall this initiative benefits the majority mutually which is why I was in support of Initiative 1634’s passing. And the majority concurred with my opinion. It is a sensible piece of proposed legislation which will decrease the prices of groceries without the additional sales taxes implemented by local governments that especially helps lower income families.

Those who were and still are opposed to this measure are largely a conglomeration of parents concerned about their children’s dietary decisions and attempting to deter them from consuming unhealthy snacks and drinks by allowing local government the ability to increase sales tax at the financial expense of all Washingtonians. And although gigantic corporations are supporters of this initiative for greater profit, this initiative is beneficial to all class designations, and therefore made voting an easy yes which makes it quite understandable that this initiative did pass.