Philadelphia Passes First Ever Soda Tax
The Philadelphia City Council has voted 13-4 to enact the nation’s first ever city-wide tax on soda. The tax applies to all sweetened and diet drinks, including tea, energy drinks, and anything that includes caloric sugar-based sweeteners.
The efforts made by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the City Council are motivated by financial problems in the Philadelphia school system. The revenue from the soda tax is expected to be applied to pre-kindergarten education programs.
Mayor Kenney, when arguing for the implementation of the soda tax in a press conference, shrugged off the suggestion that this tax will affect the poor by stating that he believes the poor are already being taxed by the soda companies.
“I don’t think I can fail, based on the people who are standing behind me, because they are Philadelphia. They’re not corporate America, they’re not Big Soda, and this is not personal toward Big Soda, but there’s a lot of money being made off the backs of poor people.
“And the argument they’ll make is that this is a tax on the poor. Well, they’ve been taxing the poor for generations, and what we’re looking to do is take some of that profit and put it back into the neighborhoods.”
Kenney, while serving on the City Council, had previously opposed a soda tax when proposed by the previous mayor, Michael Nutter. Kenney’s tax is 50% higher than Nutter’s proposition, and taxes drinks at 3 cents per ounce in bottled drinks and 4.5 cents per ounce in fountain drinks.When the previous soda tax failed, the City Council responded by increasing property taxes by nearly 4%. Now that an even higher soda tax has been implemented, Philadelphians are now experiencing both nightmares at once. The city also has a wage tax of nearly 4%. With 26% of the city living under the poverty level, this attempt to provide a service by tax is short-sighted. The poor often do not have the option to go elsewhere to buy food products, while the middle class and above do. Time will tell the full effects of this tax in the short and long runs, but one thing is clear: Philadelphia just became a more expensive city to live in.