Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Rights and Reason: Seattle Voters Nix 10-Cent Espresso Tax

Rebecca Cook of the AP reports Seattle's proposed excise tax on espresso fell flat in the voting booth yesterday:

After voters in this caffeine capital rejected a proposed 10-cent tax on espresso drinks, cafe owners celebrated with beer, wine and — what else? — lattes.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, 69 percent of voters opposed the tax. The initiative served a jolt of controversy to an otherwise sleepy off-year primary election.

"You can't tax coffee. It just doesn't work," said coffee shop owner Jeff Babcock, celebrating the victory at a downtown espresso store.

The measure would have taxed espresso drinks a dime per cup, with the revenue going to fund preschool and day-care programs. The tax would have been levied on any drink with half an ounce or more of espresso.

Initiative sponsor John Burbank said people who spend $3 to $5 on coconut mochas or iced vanilla lattes could afford an extra dime for kids. "It's a disappointing vote," he said.
No it's not. Excise taxes are one of the most vicious taxes levied--they are a tax that target users of a specific item, rather then a broadly based tax on all consumption. Burbank's egalitarian premise was plain--people who have money for luxury items should be made to pay for "the kids." It's refreshing that even in Seattle, hardly a bastion of capitalist thought, capitalism won out the day. Bravo!

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