The left is celebrating the passage of a new tax on soda and sugary drinks in Philadelphia. It’s the second tax of its kind, the first was in Berkeley, California. This victory will only embolden proponents.
Philadelphia passes a soda tax
In a final vote of 13-4, the Philadelphia City Council on Thursday passed a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-added and artificially sweetened soft drinks. That would add 18 cents to the cost of a can of soda, $1.08 for a six-pack or $1.02 for a two-liter bottle.
The new soda tax would be on top of the 8% sales tax that already applies to soda in Pennsylvania. Soda is classified as food, which is tax exempt in some states, but not in Pennsylvania.
The measure is expected to be signed by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. Kenney originally proposed a 3-cents-per-ounce soda tax.
The new tax goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017 and is estimated to raise $91 million a year.
That money will be used to fund pre-K expansion, community schools, reinvestment in parks and recreation centers, and add to the City’s General Fund. It will also fund tax credits that the council approved for retailers that sell “healthy” beverages.
Back in 2014, Berkeley, California, became the first city in the country to pass a soda tax.
Lauren Kane, spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, slammed the tax as regressive. “The fact remains that these taxes are discriminatory and highly unpopular – not only with Philadelphians, but with all Americans.” She also noted that the ABA would try to take legal action to stop it.
Here’s a video report from the Associated Press:
The cost of this tax will be passed on to consumers, many of them poor, but hey – who cares?
We’re forcing people to make healthier choices, right?
Fans of the new tax have big plans for the rest of us. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
Health experts: Philly soda tax could start national movement
The public health community far and wide reacted instantly and enthusiastically to Philadelphia City Council’s final vote Thursday to tax sweetened beverages. It also largely avoided commenting on one big part of the new tax: the inclusion of artificially sweetened drinks.
Some also noted an irony: The mayor who intentionally did not emphasize public health in campaigning for the tax could end up causing a major impact on his city’s well-being. And his example will likely resonate in other American cities, experts predicted.
Lynn Silver, a physician, researcher, and advocate for the California-based Public Health Institute, said she thought singling out beverages – at least those sweetened with sugar – for a tax would quickly win public acceptance around the country. She compared it with smoke-free air regulations, which seemed like an oddity when first proposed.
“This is an idea whose time has come,” said Silver, who is studying the impact of a penny-per-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage tax in Berkeley, Calif., the only other jurisdiction to impose a levy so far. Sales of “unhealthy” beverages are down there, while more “healthy” drinks are being sold, she said.
That sound you hear in the distance is Ben Franklin spinning in his grave.
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