Phila soda tax upheld by Supreme Court

Alex Lloyd Gross Photo- Delaware Valley A soda asile in a city grocery store. It’s empty.

By Alex Lloyd Gross

Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney is a happy boy. Today July 18, 2018, the State Supreme Court upheld the beverage tax. That’s the money which was supposed to go to help fund Pre-K. Only most of it did not. Most of it was washed into the general fund, where it could be spent on anything. Most people in the city are against the tax. The slogan “it’s for the children” rings hollow to them.

This tax may have been found to be legal, but that does not mean it’s not capricious, regressive and discriminatory.  It is regressive because it forces people to go elsewhere for their soda. Over the border, across the street into the suburbs, there is no tax and city residents are have descending on these stores like locusts,  stocking up on not only soda, but on groceries as well. The lowest income residents of the city, those that cannot afford transportation are stuck paying this tax.  Little bodega shops are hurting as their soda sales have fallen flat. Several have gone out of business. That means no business tax being collected.

Stores inside the city have fired long time workers and replaced them with minimum wage workers to stay in business. Those that work in the food industry have watched as their take home pay shrunk and have not been given any meaningful raises. Remember, employers can pay as little as $7,25 per hour and many exploit this number.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court judges all are elected. They do not have the plight of the inner city.

So when a worker takes home $437.00 per week and has to spend $80.00 on food or $53.00 on food, what do you think they are going to do?   They will go where it is cheaper.  According to former city controller Alan Butkowitz, the beverage tax was a  “failure”.  The majority of the tax is collected in the 19102 zip code. That is right in center city.  The tax is paid by tourists that have no idea . They go to see the Liberty Bell  and grab a soda.  That center city zip code is also the highest per capita income bracket and the people that live in it do not care about an extra tax. They do not even feel it.

Just because a bunch of people went to law school and slept through their classes does not mean they are qualified to offer an opinion.  The court can rule that it is perfectly acceptable to hurt animals, for example, but that ruling does not make it right. The thing with the beverage tax.  Going out to eat?  Grab a soda and they put ice in the glass. you get a quarter of the product yet you get taxed on ice.  As many people said  “I don’t care about the children, i care about MY children and I cannot take care of them with this tax,”.

Mayor Kenney said “I am grateful to the Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for their fair and careful review of this case. We maintained from the day we proposed the tax that it stood on solid legal footing, and the Justices, like two courts before them, agreed. Beyond the legal resolution, today’s decisive ruling offers renewed hope for tens of thousands of Philadelphia children and families who struggle for better lives in the face of rampant poverty.”

Several states have now outlawed soda taxes to insure they do not happen in their state. Pennsylvania lawmakers are asleep at the switch, doing nothing to prevent the flow of jobs into the unemployment line, just as they are about raising the state minimum wage.