As Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney prepared to deliver his first budget address Thursday morning, the linchpin of his plan — a tax on sugary drinks — has already polarized lawmakers.
The more than $4 billion spending blueprint depends on City Council approval of the mayor’s quest for a 3 cents-per-ounce soda tax.
Councilman Bill Greenlee said he’s not sure it can pass.
“Clearly, there’s going to be opponents out there. There’s going to be proponents, particularly those who say this is our only avenue,” he said. “I get that, it’s going to be an interesting discussion for the next couple of months I guess.”
Republican Councilman Al Taubenberger said he doesn’t feel good about the prospective levy.
“I don’t like it any time one industry is singled out, particularly one industry that is very involved in the city of Philadelphia [with] two major plants, thousands of workers,” he said.
Finance Director Rob Dubow says with the plan for citywide pre-K , which would be largely subsidized by revenues from the tax on sugary drinks, the city has not budgeted any other funds for the school district.
“We’re looking at a different approach to try to improve educational outcomes, and that’s the investment that we have in this year’s budget,” Dubow said during a preview of the mayor’s financial plan.
The budget also counts on the soda tax to generate funds for pension contributions as well as upgrading recreation centers and libraries.
Managing Director Mike Di Berardinis said officials haven’t selected which facilities would receive face-lifts if the soda tax were enacted.
“You don’t want to go into a neighborhood and say we think you need this, and they say, ‘No, no, no. We need that,'” he said. “And we also want to make sure the folks that represent them in City Council are part of the process.”
A series of budget hearings will take place next with public input on the spending plan that also includes $200 million for city worker contracts.