Majority of Members Back 1.5-Cents-per-Ounce Increase on Sugar-Added & Artificially Sweetened Beverages
Philadelphia, June 8, 2016 – Following weeks of Administration and public testimony on Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed 3-cents-per-ounce sugar-added beverages tax hike, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) on Wednesday announced a majority of members had reached consensus on an alternative beverage tax increase that would raise approximately $91 million over the next year.
The revenue from a lower but broader-based 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax increase on sugar-added and artificially sweetened soft drinks would fund quality pre-K expansion, community schools, reinvestment in parks and recreation centers, and help pad the City’s General Fund.
Council President Clarke said members arrived at consensus on a beverage tax that includes so-called diet soft drinks following the Kenney Administration’s admission that it intended to divert some of the revenues to the City’s General Fund.
“City Council prides itself on having knowledgeable and experienced technical staff, who informed members weeks ago that Mayor Kenney’s 3-cents-per-ounce proposal would raise more revenue than needed to fund his initiatives. Today, the Administration disclosed that it also intends to use the soda tax to shore up the General Fund,” Council President Clarke said. “It is the view of many members of Council that a General Fund problem and citywide initiatives should not be resolved by a proposal that affects mostly low-income people with few options.”
In addition to giving preliminary approval to the 1.5-cents-per-ounce soft drinks tax increase, the Committee of the Whole also advanced Council Majority Whip Blondell Reynolds Brown’s (At Large) bill offering tax credits to merchants that opt to sell healthy beverages in their stores.
“Thanks to City Council’s diligence and sharp questioning, we will soon send Mayor Kenney a budget plan that is ultimately more equitable, more sustainable, and smarter public health policy,” Councilwoman Reynolds Brown said. “That is exactly why the legislative process exists: To shape better informed policy that encapsulates the ideas and concerns of the people we represent.”
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District) added: “A 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax increase on soft drinks will have a smaller negative impact on businesses and consumers; be more widely spread among consumers at both ends of the income spectrum; raise the funds necessary to make historic reinvestments in our young people and public spaces; and protect the City from uncertainty by increasing the General Fund balance.”
Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th District) said: “I was among the members who expressed reservations about the regressive nature of the original soda tax proposal, which would have generated funds for universally beneficial programs. I’m proud to be part of a legislative body that, year after year, through due diligence and hard work, delivers strong and progressive spending plans to the Administration. I look forward to working with the Administration to ensure that these initiatives create family-sustaining jobs for Philadelphia residents.”
Deputy Majority Whip Bill Greenlee concluded: “I congratulate Mayor Kenney – a longtime colleague and friend – on an engaging and ultimately successful inaugural budget process. I also thank every member of Council, and our hardworking and talented staff, for producing a final budget that is more fiscally responsible and will truly move our City forward.”
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