Phila soda tax faces stiff opposition

By Alex Lloyd Gross

Alex Lloyd Gross- Photo Delaware Valley Mayor Kenney walks by a protest during the St. Paddy’s Day Parade.

Mayor Michael Nutter tried twice to enact a tax on soft drinks in Philadelphia. He failed , partly because he could not get city council to go along with it. One council member that voted no was James Kenney.  Now after a few years passed and Kenney is elected Mayor, he  walked into the hornets nest   by proposing the exact same thing. The opposition to this is just as strong, if not stronger.

The local unions are vehemently opposed. For good reason. It will put people out of work. You see, when shoppers want to buy something, they will go for the lowest price. That means stores in the city will be forced to sell soda for more than the suburban stores.  They will have to charge 3 cents more in per ounce  tax.  So when people do their grocery shopping, they will do it in  Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware Counties . If they work in New Jersey, they will buy their groceries there as well. Of course,  people will still buy soda in Philadelphia, just not as much.

Mayor Kenney said people will eat healthier. Hogwash. They will just go else where and it is quite possible to see enterprising people in the inner city  go to the suburbs to stock up on soda and sell it with no permit on the streets for half of what the store is selling it for.  Those people then get arrested and become branded as criminals, simply for trying to support their families. When the mayor presented his budget, he had a wish list a mile long. The only way to fund schools and buy fire trucks and police cars, trash trucks, etc  is with money. Which  the city does not have a lot of.

The “grocery tax” or “Soda Tax” is a convenient way to pump up  city coffers, In theory, it would work perfectly.  That theory is that people in the city would still purchase their soda in the same quantity and frequency from the same vendors.  In doing so, the city budget could be filled in a few short months and they would get a windfall.  The reality is that people will go elsewhere to shop and city stores will close. Hundreds of jobs will be lost  and families will lose their homes. It’s not just  supermarkets that will be hurt but restaurants as well. Want to get a  steak sandwich and a soda? It’s gonna cost more.  Look for restaurants to close as well. People will not  be able to afford going out to eat.

In New York,  Health Commissioner Thomas Farley tried to get Mayor Bloomberg  to enact something even stronger.  Certain stores would be forbidden from selling 32 oz sodas. A Federal judge called it capricious and illegal.  That soda tax went nowhere fast. Now the same guy is in Philadelphia trying to sell the same bill of goods with a different label on it to different people.  Farley is now on Kenney’s cabinet and is advising him to push forward.

For the record, this tax is not just be applied to soda, but any drink with sugar in it, soft drinks, teas , sports drinks are all lumped into one.  A website has been launched by several unions that spell out their concerns. There have been several protests already about this such as the St.. Patricks Day Parade.  This local issue has the potential to turn into disruptive protests for the upcoming Democratic National Convention in mid summer.