The soda tax has passed
Philadelphia has become the first American city to pass a major sugary beverage tax. The tax passed with a 13-4 vote.
According to Philly Mag, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, David Oh, Brian O’Neill and Al Taubenberger voted against the 1.5-cents-per-ounce.
“Thanks to the tireless advocacy of educators, parents, rec center volunteers and so many others, Philadelphia made a historic investment in our neighborhoods and in our education system today. I commend City Council for working with these community leaders to make quality, affordable pre-K, community schools and systemic improvements to parks, rec centers and libraries a reality,” Mayor Kenney said in a press release. “Today would not have been possible without everyone coming together in support of a fair future for every zip code.”
At a press conference following the historic vote, Kenney announced that he would sign the “soda tax” into law on Monday, though it would not go into effect until next year.
On June 8, City Council gave the preliminary approval to place a tax on sugary drinks.
Back in March, when Kenney announced the budget, he introduced a 3 cents-per-ounce tax on sodas and sugary drinks. The tax approved last Wednesday during the first round of voting was half of Kenney’s suggestion, 1.5 cents.
According to Lauren Hitt, Kenney’s spokesperson, council members came together and decided a 1.5 cent compromise with diet was what they preferred. In the spirit of compromise, Hitt said, Kenney agreed.
“Today’s victory demonstrates that when people unite around a worthy and clearly-articulated set of proposals like those advanced by Mayor Kenney, the ideas they embody are strong enough to defeat even the most well-funded and aggressive lobbying effort,” Philadelphians for a Fair Future said in a statement. “Philadelphians know that this tax is the fairest and most effective way to pay for programs that are good for all children and good for the City’s future, and in the end that’s why it was adopted.”
In a statement, Ceiba, a coalition of Latino community-based organizations in Philadelphia, expresses its thanks to Mayor Kenney, City Council President Clarke, and the members of City Council for passing the historic legislation.
“The Latino community has the highest poverty rate in Philadelphia and looks forward to helping the City to maximize the positive impact that the additional revenue generated by the soda tax will have on increasing the number of children in pre‑K programs, improving neighborhood recreation centers, libraries, and enhancing schools by making them true community schools,” Ceiba said in the statement.
In an interview with Al DÍA last week, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez' said there is no disagreement about the Mayor’s priorities.
“Thoughtful planning is critical to make these initiatives successful for our city, which is why Council will require full-fledged plans for pre-K, community schools, and rebuild before any expenditures of this revenue can be made,” she said. “I did not support the proposed tax because we had better ways to make these priorities part of our $4 billion budget, including expediting AVI (Actual Value Iniative) reassessments and realigning department priorities.
The last minute revelation that over $40 million of the beverage tax revenue would be dedicated to the fund balance and not to these programs shows the need for continued work to improve efficiency and transparency in our budget and spending process. As chair of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue working with my colleagues and with the administration to improve our efficiency, our procurement process, and our department priorities to make the best possible use of our public dollars.”