If Kenney has his way, soda tax in Philly’s future

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Five years ago

Five years ago

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney appears poised to try to do what his predecessor couldn’t … enact a soda tax. 

The plan is expected to impose a 3-cents-per-once special sales tax on sugary drinks, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Over five years, the paper reported, the tax is projected to generate $400 million, most of which would be use to fund access to pre-K education for city children.

Advocates of the soda tax told the Inquirer that a 12-ounce can of soda would be taxed 36 cents, but that it would be levied on distributors, not to merchants such as grocery outlets and corner stores.

If it passes, Kenney’s soda tax would be three times one passed in Berkeley, California, the only city to successfully pass a levy on sugary drinks. There, soda is taxed 1 cent per ounce.

Kenney is set to publicly announce the plan on Thursday. But already, opponents are taking aim.

“It is patently unfair, especially to low-income citizens, single mothers and minorities,” said Daniel Grace, secretary of  Teamsters Local 830 in a release. Grace noted that mom-and-pop stores would be hurt the most by a soda tax in Philadelphia. 

“The city should not proceed with this ill-conceived idea to generate revenue that is doomed to fail,” he said.

Kenney has big plans for the millions he said the tax would produce.

“There are large initiatives we want to engage in,” he said. “There are limited areas of opportunities for revenue that we don’t want to regrade the city in areas of taxation — such as real estate and wage and business and [use and occupancy].”

Councilman Curtis Jones, who backed the tax former Mayor Michael Nutter proposed, said he is a little more cautious this time.

“I’m going to keep an open mind about it and see his proposal and see what he intends to do and how much of it by way of the soda tax,” Jones said.

Nutter proposed a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sweet drinks twice during his administration. Kenney, a city councilman at the time, opposed the idea, and the tax never made it to a council vote.

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