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    Seattle Seeks Espresso Tax

    Retailers and caffeine aficionados stage their version of the Boston Tea Party, protesting levy to fund preschool programs.

    SEATTLE -- Some 200 coffee roasters, espresso bar owners and ordinary caffeine lovers turned out to protest a ballot measure to tax espresso drinks to raise money for preschool programs. Initiative 77 is up for a vote September 16.

    "I'm here on behalf of my wholesale customers who cannot afford this unfair tax," said Neal Brown, wholesale director for Zoka Coffee House, at Sunday's protest.

    Supporters say the dime-a-drink tax could raise more than $6.5 million a year for day care and preschool programs. A City Council staff estimate puts the benefit at $1.8 million to $3.5 million annually. A coalition of business owners, led by Seattle-based Starbucks, is fighting the tax, the Associated Press reported.

    Calling the protest their version of the Boston Tea Party, demonstrators marched to Green Lake, Wash., where they dumped burlap bags into the water.

    The tax would not affect plain old diner coffee -- just "any beverage prepared for immediate consumption containing half an ounce or more of espresso regardless of caffeine content, whether served hot or cold." Such drinks are luxury items, initiative backers say.

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