It’s official: after a months-long debate that counts among the most disingenuous in the city’s history, Council has ushered in a new tax on beverages that at the last minute will funnel money into our General Fund and tax diet beverages as well as sugary ones. All the Democrats on Council but one ignored all arguments to the contrary to rubber-stamp the Mayor’s 1.5 cents per ounce tax that will fall disproportionately on the poorest Philadelphians.
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.
With the Mayor’s soda tax facing stiff opposition in City Council – including Council President Darrell Clarke yesterday calling it “ridiculous” and unlikely to pass – Council will now debate an alternate tax introduced by At-Large Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown: a 15-cent tax imposed on any beverage container sold in the city aside from milk and baby formula. The tax, borrowed from Baltimore – not exactly known as a bastion of good governance – would be even further reaching than a tax on sugary beverages, and thus even more difficult for consumers to avoid.
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