McGinn mulling soda tax to support Seattle parks

SEATTLE -- Would you pay an extra penny per ounce for your soda if the money went to Seattle parks?

That's a question Mayor Mike McGinn is now asking. He says the tax hike could create a steady stream of $20 million each year.

The penny-per-ounce tax hike idea is designed to discourage unhealthy activities and pay for parks. It would apply to all sugary drinks sold in city limits, but would exclude diet sodas.

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

"Sounds a little outrageous to me," said construction worker Casey Smith.

Store owner Randy Um said said soda drinkers will likely not drink less just because it's a bit more expensive. He said the same thing happened when cigarette taxes began skyrocketing.

Personally, he likes the idea because he likes parks.

"It doesn't really harm me. But I'll just tell the customers, I'll just explain that this is why it's going up. It's not me," he said.

McGinn believes Seattle voters will support the tax because they supported previous taxes on sweets, even though statewide voters did not.

"Knowing of our city's love for parks and the fact that they previously gave 70 percent support to candy and soda taxes make me think that this is a useful option," McGinn said.

According to city estimates, the tax could bring in $20 million or more per year, and that would help pay for parks and community center operations.

"I think it's great. I'd like more funding for the parks and I'm willing to be taxed for it," said Seattle resident Ginger Moriarty.

McGinn's opponent for mayor, Ed Murray, has already come out opposing the idea, telling a newspaper that powerful companies would fight and likely win as they have before.

The proposal will next go to the Seattle Parks Legacy Board, which will also consider renewing a property tax levy that expires soon. They could make a recommendation to the full city council next year.