By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Nutter’s proposals for a new cigarette tax and a higher liquor tax were formally introduced today in Philadelphia City Council.
But the president of City Council cautions that the mayor’s plan still has far to go.
This was a bureaucratic step forward for the mayor’s already-controversial plan to add a city-only tax of $2 a pack on cigarettes. Legislation allowing that has now been introduced in Council.
Also introduced: Nutter’s companion bill that would raise the liquor-by-the-drink tax from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Nutter wants both taxes to add $95 million to the city’s contribution to the school district in the coming year. But Council president Clarke Darrell Clarke points out that even if Council goes along with the mayor’s plan, they can’t do it without authorization from the state legislature.
“If and until those bills are introduced on the state level, and we see some sense that there is some action, there’s really not a lot that we can do locally,” Clarke said today.
And although the mayor’s cigarette tax bill was introduced, it was altered slightly by the Council president. Nutter had said a small portion of the revenues should fund smoking cessation programs run by the Health Department. Clarke revised the measure so that 100 percent of the cigarette tax goes to the schools.
“I believe that whatever dollars are available as it relates to a (new) tax should go to the School District,” Clarke told KYW Newsradio today. “I wasn’t briefed (by the Nutter administration) on a cessation program. But based on the severity of what we’ve been talking about (for schools), I believe every dollar should go to toward the school district.”
Some councilmembers favor an alternate approach: raising the Use and Occupancy (“U&O”) tax on business properties to get the school district an additional $32 million, more than half its original $60-million request. The councilmembers backing this approach point out that it is not reliant on Harrisburg’s authorization.