Local business owners weigh in on I-1634

Proposal would stop local gov from taxing raw, unprocessed food



Owner of Main Street Squeeze Destiny Sternod talks about how legislation I-1634 can both be positive and negative and both sides and viewpoints can be agreed with but a big worry is that the soda industry is paying millions into the campaign which always puts up some red flags at Main Street Squeeze on Monday.

ANGELICA RELENTE, Evergreen editor-in-chief

Initiative Measure No. 1634, also known as the “keep groceries affordable act of 2018,” proposes that no local governmental entity may impose a tax or fee for any raw or processed food or beverage intended for human consumption.

Dissmore’s IGA Owner Archie McGregor III said there is a need for consistency across the state, and the initiative might solve a confusing distinction between city and county lines. The initiative also impacts those who may be a part of low-income communities, he said.

“Everyone keeps taxing groceries,” McGregor said. “All it does is it affects all the people that need that money for groceries the most.”

CJ Robert, Pups & Cups Cafe owner, said taxes chip away at a person’s income or revenue, but still thinks the decision is up to local governmental bodies.

“City councils and local cities should be left with what they deem as appropriate to place taxes on,” Robert said.

McGregor referred to Seattle’s sweetened beverage tax — effective since Jan. 1 — and said the tax was supposed to keep people from drinking sugary drinks. He said it should be the people’s choice whether they want to drink soda or not.

Robert said the money collected from the sweetened beverage tax was distributed back throughout the city, much like the alcohol tax.

“[The alcohol tax] created a lot of extra jobs [and] created a lot of extra revenue and income to a lot of cities and a lot of states,” Robert said. “Do I think that they’ve been able to do relatively the same thing with the soda tax? Yeah, I do.”

Seattle’s sweetened beverage tax is also a good way to push consumers toward healthier options, Robert said.

“[Seattle is] trying to open our minds into making those conscientious decisions [like] ‘Do I want to pay extra to have this soda?’ or ‘Is it just cheaper to drink water?’ ” she said. “Seattle tap water is amazing — try drinking Pullman tap water.”

Destiny Sternod, Main Street Squeeze owner, said she understands the proponents and those opposing I-1634. She emphasized the mission of her business, which is to serve affordable products.

“If there is an increase in taxes,” Sternod said, “it would impact me and my mission”

She said a small city like Pullman does not compare to a big city like Seattle, which makes it difficult to predict how the initiative might impact her business.

“I always push more towards local government and local agencies being able to dictate themselves,” Sternod said.

Robert said the wording of I-1634 can be misleading, as well as the entities who are supporting the initiative itself.

“The only main push [for] this has been from soda companies,” Robert said. “That should be the biggest red flag.”

She said being informed before voting on measures like I-1634 is vital not only for this coming election, but future elections as well.

“It’s becoming more and more important for you to do the leg work ahead of time rather than just showing up to a voting booth or just filling out a piece of paper,” she said.