*This article was published in the Spokesman Review on July 9, 2018.*

Barbara Richardson and Sonja Halverson: Protect groceries in Spokane now and this November

Mon., July 9, 2018, 2:40 p.m.

While Washington state doesn’t tax groceries, a loophole says local governments may. There’s a growing coalition of citizens, farmers, workers and business owners who are taking a stand to close this loophole and to help protect our economy, our community and our livelihoods.

Doesn’t it make sense to take measures to prevent any threat to our citizens and our economy? That’s what Ballot Measure 1634, the Yes! to Affordable Groceries Act, will do. If you look at some of the decisions made and some of the taxes levied in other parts of the state it is easy to understand that the threat to a tax on groceries is real. We saw this happen in Seattle with the huge, new sweetened beverage tax. This is a slippery slope and once it starts, there’s no turning back. Already some pro-tax advocacy groups are pushing for high taxes on foods and beverages, including meats, dairy products, eggs and beverages. By supporting Yes! to Affordable Groceries you will be supporting one, statewide policy against the local taxation of your groceries.

[expander_maker id=”1″ more=”Read more” less=”Read less”]

Ballot Measure 1634 gives voters the best opportunity to stand up against upside-down taxes that hit the poor and middle-income families the hardest, and to say yes to keeping their groceries affordable. This initiative covers all groceries – meat, dairy, juices, everyday beverages and more.

Additionally, the initiative is supported by a diverse group of state-based organizations including the Joint Council of Teamsters, the Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen’s Association, the Washington Food Industry Association, Washington Hospitality Association, and the Washington Retailers Association. This growing coalition clearly indicates that we must stand together as voters to support Initiative 1634.

Spokane is experiencing a period of growth and renewal which is driven by the vibrant agricultural landscape of our home. We know agriculture is instrumental in delivering fresh and consistent-quality food from the farm to the table in our state. Local businesses, restaurants, stores and the hospitality industry serve as the engine that powers our neighborhoods and communities across the state, including Spokane.

Basic economics teaches us that even a strong and promising economy can be vulnerable to changes in price and affordability. Specifically, any increase or fluctuation in the price of food and beverages can have a damaging effect on many people in the food supply chain. From farmers, who rely on reasonably priced crops, to store and restaurant owners, who need groceries to be affordable for their businesses to survive. Restaurants have very slim profit margins and any disruption can mean the difference between failure and success. Finally, increased prices on groceries would make it harder for low-income and working families to afford the most basic of necessities – food.

We need to make sure that the revitalization of Spokane is not interrupted. We need to make sure that there isn’t a patchwork of local laws taxing various groceries at different levels. We need to make sure our communities stay healthy and that families have access to fresh food that is affordable. By approving Initiative 1634 on the ballot in November, we will stand up and say “no” to additional local taxes on groceries.

Barbara Richardson of Jimmy John’s and Sonja Halverson of Onion Restaurants are co-chairs of the Spokane Chapter of the Washington Hospitality Association.