As controller plans to review business impact of Philly soda tax, mayor doubts impartiality

Controller Alan Butkovitz

Controller Alan Butkovitz (File)

Philadelphia’s city controller plans to survey businesses to see just how they are being affected by the city’s sweetened-beverage tax.

But Mayor Jim Kenney said he suspects the results could be biased.

Controller Alan Butkovitz said he will have his staff question the owners of businesses that sell sweetened drinks.

“We’re going to go out into the field and survey 1,000 businesses that sell soda and similarly taxed products to and get their responses as to the impact it’s having on their business,” Butkovitz said Wednesday.

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The 1.5 cents-per-ounce-tax was implemented in January as a way of raising revenue for expanded pre-K in the city, as well as funding repairs and upgrades to libraries, parks and recreation.

Industry groups and others are challenging the levy in court by appealing a Philadelphia judge’s ruling that the tax is legal.

Butkovitz has been critical of the tax, and he questioned whether it will generate as much money as city officials have assumed. At the end of last month, the tax had generated about $39 million, about $7 million short of projections.

Meanwhile, Kenney said he doubts the controller can conduct an impartial survey.

“He is not going to treat this in a fair and equitable way, and he’s not longer going to be the city controller [after January], so we will see what he says,” Kenney said. “But I don’t put much stock in his methods or his motivation.”

Butkovitz, who was defeated in the spring primary for re-election to his post, said he will make the results of the survey public in a few weeks.

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