The Philadelphia city council voted overwhelmingly in support of a soda specific tax Thursday, delivering a huge victory for Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney.
The city council has been debating on whether to enact the 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks. Council members finally voted 13 to four in favor of the tax, reports Reuters. Philadelphia is now the largest city to have a tax on sugary drinks. A similar measure failed in New York City.
“Philadelphia made a historic investment in our neighborhoods and in our education system today,” Kenney said in a statement. “I commend City Council for working with these community leaders to make quality, affordable pre-K, community schools and systemic improvements to parks.”
Kenney focused on the potential tax revenue as opposed to the health benefits of discouraging soda consumption. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg famously proposed a tax on soda in 2010, but his proposal ended up failing. Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also wanted to tax sugary drinks, but his proposal failed in 2011.
“I also thank my colleagues in Council for working with our administration to craft a shared agenda that will improve the education, health and prosperity of children and families all across our city for years to come,” Kenney continued. “Today would not have been possible without everyone coming together in support of a fair future for every zipcode.”
Critics warned the increased tax would cost jobs. Truck drivers, restaurants, grocery stores and many other types of businesses either sell or transport soda, and they fear the tax won’t just impact the large soda companies. Philadelphia Teamsters members rallied June 8 outside the city hall against the measure.
Kenney has noted on numerous occasions the tax will not hurt small businesses or cost jobs. He reasons it will only impact the large profits of major soda companies. The mayor has garnered significant support for his tax.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanderscondemned soda taxes April 21 for disproportional impacting the poor. He made his comments not long after his primary rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out in support of the soda taxes.
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