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Industries fight ‘sin’ taxes

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 9, 2010 at 11:35 am |
April 9, 2010 12:36 pm

Opponents of the taxes on soda pop and other grocery items gathered at the Capitol this morning, but with few lawmakers in town, they mostly lobbied the press.

I wrote about the public campaigns being waged on the targeted taxes in today’s paper, including the prospects for industry groups to challenge the taxes through the initiative process. Groups opposed to one or more taxes would need to collect 241,000 signatures by July 2 to put them on the ballot.

Also today, I spoke with Pierson Clair, CEO of confectioner Brown & Haley, who said flatly he would push for a ballot measure, joining with other employers.

“The citizens will overwhelmingly respond. I think citizens are tired of higher taxes,” he said.

For now, the industries are focused on persuading legislators. Grocers and bottlers said they will be back tomorrow when the House and Senate are due to reconvene for weekend action.

The Washington Beverage Association ran an ad today in The News Tribune (“More Taxes? NOW? … Governor Gregoire wants to raise our taxes! That’s just not right.”) It follows statewide radio ads during Wednesday’s Mariners game and Thursday’s ads in The Olympian, the Vancouver Columbian, the Bellingham Herald and the Everett Herald.

Joe Gilliam of the Northwest Grocery Association said he heard that 1,500 “consumers” have called Democratic leaders to complain about the taxes. Those leaders have spent recent days wrangling votes for their compromise tax proposal without bringing members to Olympia or making an announcement about their deal — which Gilliam said shows “their votes aren’t solid.”

Grocers say they are already being buffeted in the economic downturn. Jeannie Lee, executive director of the Korean American Grocers Association, said at the gathering today that some stores in her group have already closed down and more would follow because of taxes on items like candy, gum, bottled water, beer and pop.

“The convenience store will die,” she said. “That’s mainly what they carry.”

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