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Washington Voters Could Prohibit Local Taxes on Groceries

by Countable | 10.29.18

What the Initiative Does

Washington Initiative 1634 would prohibit local governments from imposing any new tax, fee, or other assessment on groceries on or after January 15, 2018. Groceries would be defined as “any raw or processed food or beverage, or any ingredient thereof, intended for human consumption”. Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco wouldn’t qualify as grocery items.

The state of Washington currently has a sales tax and no specific grocery tax, but it would retain the ability to tax groceries.

In Favor

Taxes on groceries hit those who can least afford it the hardest, like seniors, low-income households, and military families. Local governments shouldn’t be able to tax groceries.


This measure would undercut local government’s ability to raise needed revenue to fund crucial public services by prohibiting taxes on groceries.


A group known as Yes! To Affordable Groceries is campaigning in favor of Initiative 1634, and argues:

“Local governments across Washington are looking to raise revenues and one idea they’re looking at is new taxes on foods and beverages. People feel taxed enough and can’t afford new taxes on what they eat and drink. Washington’s tax structure already places a greater burden on working families than any other state in the country. Heaping taxes on everyday grocery items will raise our cost of living and make it even harder for working families, small businesses and their workers to get by. That’s why Yes! To Affordable Groceries is exploring ways to prevent new burdensome grocery taxes from advancing in local communities across Washington. We appreciate the budget issues that communities face. But there is a better way to handle the challenge than targeting grocery carts for more taxes that will only hurt working-class families, small businesses and their employees the most.”

A group known as The WA Healthy Kids Coalition is campaigning against Initiative 1634:

“Initiative 1634 takes away local control and gives it to the state. This confusing measure imposes a one-size-fits-all state law that takes power away from voters and hands it to the state, silencing our voice in local decision-making. Corporate special interests are spending millions to strip away voter choices and protect profits I-1634 has nothing to do with keeping our food affordable. In fact, tax prohibitions on everyday food items — from fruits and vegetables to milk and bread—are already reflected in voter-approved state law. Instead, this measure is funded almost exclusively by the multi-billion-dollar soda industry. They are only concerned with their profits and are spending millions on this initiative—and misleading advertisements—that would undermine local control. Reject Initiative 1634 to prevent future erosion of local powers by special interests. I-1634 sets a dangerous precedent — any special interest could spend millions on a misleading initiative to limit our rights as voters and our local autonomy.”

Initiative 1634 made it onto Washington ballots after supporters submitted roughly 312,000 valid signatures, exceeding the required 259,622 signatures.

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: / Steve Debenport)


Written by Countable

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