A measure to levy a US$0.10-per-cup tax on espresso in what is known as the coffee capital of the nation was overwhelmingly rejected on Tuesday night by Seattle voters.
With results from 59 percent of the precincts reported and all of the mail-in ballots, which made up a large portion of the votes cast in Tuesday's primary, 68 percent of the voters opposed the tax and 32 percent voted for it.
The tax, which would have been the first of its kind in the nation, would have charged an extra dime for any coffee beverage containing a half-ounce or more of espresso but not apply to regular drip coffee. The revenue was intended to help finance early childhood education in the city, which is the birthplace of the Starbucks Corp and scene of virtually constant coffee drinking.
Some Seattle voters, typically willing to support taxes to raise money for social services, said it came down to a difficult choice between the many coffee shops that could be hurt by the tax and the beneficiaries of the revenue -- young children.
The espresso tax, formally called Initiative 77, would have been the first of its kind in the nation, according to the National Coffee Association, based in New York City, which tracks legislation and other developments related to the coffee business.
The Economic Opportunity Institute, a Seattle think tank, gathered 30,000 signatures, 11,000 more than required, and got the measure on the ballot. The organization estimated that the espresso tax would have raised US$6.5 million annually, based on gourmet-coffee consumption statistics, said its executive director, John Burbank.
City officials, using different coffee consumption figures, estimated the annual revenue at US$1.8 million to US$3.5 million.
The money would have gone to subsidizing early childhood education programs, which have been deeply financially strained in the past few years as a severe budget crisis has gripped the Northwest. The initiative's sponsors said the proposed espresso tax was a creative but reliable way to raise the money.
Some argued that the espresso tax was merely a short-term patch for the problems created by the state's tax structure.