Kenney gains allies in soda tax war
Mayor Jim Kenney has rallied a number of allies behind his soda tax proposal in the last week.
His administration on Thursday added the FOP Lodge 5, the Dominican Cultural Association, Philadelphia NOW, the Maternity Care Coalition and Philadelphia School District leaders to the growing list of organizations backing the mayor’s plan to add three cents to the ounce on sugary drinks.
Kenney hopes the soda tax will raise $400 million over the next five years to pay for universal pre-K in the city. But first he’ll have to face tooth-and-nail opposition from the beverage industry, which lobbied City Council to squash similar levies in recent years.
The administration has begun touting its support from some small business owners like Ben Miller of South Philly Barbacoa.
"The increase in price of soda as a business owner won't hurt me,” Miller said in a statement. “It may actually encourage our customers to buy some tax exempt drinks that we have a higher profit margin on. In addition to being a small business owner, I'm also a community member, and the programs this tax will fund are very important to our community."
Small business and low-income consumers will figure large in both sides of the debate.
When the tax was first proposed in 2011, dozens of organizations and over 33,000 residents signed a petition against the levy. The tax's current opposition includes a number of grocers associations, non-profits, and the unions.
This growing list includes the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, which operates over 3,200 retail stores across the state; the Teamsters union; a number of Sunoco franchises and their owners; Uplift Solutions, a nonprofit that works to expand grocery access in food deserts; The Dominican Grocers Association; The National Association of Theater Owners of Pennsylvania; and the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.
In the last week, some 1,200 city residents and small businesses have signed a petition against the tax.
It is worth noting that the three-cents-per-ounce is the largest of its kind in the U.S., according to report from the Tax Foundation. Moreover, opponents have reiterated concerns about the regressive nature of the tax: If people stop drinking soda, the funding stream dries up for universal pre-K. Ditto if consumers start crossing county lines to make their purchases.
Thursday’s pro-tax allies join the company of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, labor union 32BJ SEIU, Philadelphia NAACP President Rodney Muhammad, and others who stood in support of the tax that Kenney proposed to council. Kenney's team sent out a long list of additional supporters, which ranged from labor unions to elementary school teachers
The mayor's office will be hosting an info session next Monday "to spell out the methodology used to arrive at the administration’s revenue projections for the proposed sugary drink tax."
This article was updated at 6:30 p.m. to better reflect both members from both the support and the opposition.