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WA Gets Advice from Colorado on Pop & Candy Tax

October 4, 2010

SEATTLE - As Washington voters consider whether to allow soft drinks, candy and bottled water to be taxed, they can look to Colorado for guidance. That state was in the same situation and decided to allow the tax this year.

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy says none of the soft drink industry's dire predictions - from job losses to taxes on other kinds of groceries - have come to pass. However, Kathy White, policy director at the Center in Denver, says the fight leading up to the decision was a tough one.

"I've never seen that kind of opposition to a tax policy in Colorado before. Pepsi and Coke allowed employees to take the day off to sit in the Finance Committee hearing. There were all sorts of charges that this would cost 800 jobs - and that just hasn't panned out, to be quite honest."

White thinks the soft drink industry is fighting hard to pass Initiative 1107 in Washington because if it fails, other cash-strapped states will also try to make pop and candy taxable items.

Like Washington, Colorado is in a severe state budget crisis. Taxing pop and candy there now brings in $18 million a year. In Washington, taxing those items plus bottled water would bring in more than $100 million a year, according to the Washington State Budget and Policy Center.

Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director with AARP Washington, says it's money the state can't afford to pass up - for health care, eldercare and education.

"Two cents on a bottle of water or soda is a really small price to pay to maintain our quality of education in our state and to ensure that we're not cutting back on things that help older people stay in their own homes as they age."

The American Beverage Association has contributed more than $14 million to the campaign to repeal the tax.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA