During the months-long debate around the Mayor’s proposed soda tax, we had heard the same argument over and over again: This is for the kids. Now, as Council agreed in a voice vote to advance a “compromise” bill to likely passage, an 11th-hour change means that much of the tax revenue is going to the city’s general fund, rather than to “universal” Pre-K, as defined by the Mayor.
We’ll defer to Democratic At-Large Councilman Bill Greenlee to summarize our thoughts: “We heard it was all about the kids, all about the kids. Sometime this afternoon, we heard it's also about the fund balance."
Yes, all those children they trucked in for a “read-in” yesterday were unwittingly supporting our spiraling pension costs and contracts with labor unions, which City Democrats are loathe to address. In testimony, City Finance Director Rob Dubow admitted, casually: “We should have brought it up earlier.” That is of course an understated reaction when an entirely new class of tax – which will obviously fall disproportionately on the poorest Philadelphians – has been debated for months, and at the final moment its entire justification has changed. But that’s the approach Mayor Kenney and City Democrats have to taxation: they’re entitled to our money, and have no incentive to be upfront about why or what for. In Council we’ve seen no less than four tax hike proposals debated, with no proactive agenda to fix our spiraling labor costs, reform our pensions, or make productive changes to our Third-World education system.
Finally, the tax “compromise,” which taxes beverages at 1.5 cents and ounce instead of 3 cents, actually includes diet sodas. So, just as those children were trotted out for a completely different purpose than we were told, so too were the scores of community health “experts” we heard from on the pro-tax side, from the grassroots on up. The ravages of diet soda are simply non-existent – it’s just another product to tax.
When the dust settles on this ignominious tax hike, it is our hope that it will be reported on and known by Philadelphians as what it really is: a money-grab on an arbitrary product that will fall hardest on the poorest Philadelphians.
In other news, city water rates are expected to go up 10%. The message from City Democrats to Philadelphians is clear: don’t drink anything, and eat dirt.