Liquor by the drink levy could be casualty of fight against Philly soda tax

If a bill designed to end Philadelphia's sweetened beverage tax were approved in Harrisburg, City Council President Darrell Clarke says the city's 10 percent tax on liquor sold by the glass could also be challenged. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

If a bill designed to end Philadelphia's sweetened beverage tax were approved in Harrisburg, City Council President Darrell Clarke says the city's 10 percent tax on liquor sold by the glass could also be challenged. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

A bill in Harrisburg aimed at stopping Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened beverages could cause some collateral damage — and cost the city schools money another way.

Philadelphia’s 10 percent tax on liquor sold by the glass, in effect for more than a decade, generates between $40 million and $60 million annually — exclusively for city schools.

If a bill designed to end the sweetened beverage tax were approved in Harrisburg, City Council President Darrell Clarke said, the liquor tax could also be challenged.

“Losing that would be significant money that we’ve already counted on,” he said. “It’s produced a significant amount of revenue over the years.”

Clarke said he has heard no complaints about the alcoholic drink tax in years.

“To a degree, it’s a voluntary tax. If you don’t buy a drink or the liquor, you don’t have to pay the tax,” he said.

City Council is working with lawmakers in Harrisburg in an effort to avoid revocation of the 1.5 cents per ounce tax on the supply of sweetened beverages — including regular and diet sodas and teas — to retail dealers.  Revenue from the tax has been earmarked for expanding pre-K and other city investments in libraries and recreation.

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