Business Owners Fear Sugary Drink Tax Will Send Customers Out Of Town

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Reaction to Philadelphia’s City Council preliminary passing of a sugary drink tax is strong near City Line Avenue, which divides Philadelphia and Montgomery County. There are many concerns that people will just cross the street over to the Montgomery County side to get their beverage fix.

As a bodega owner in Wynnefield, Kelvin Rodriguez is watching the sugary beverage tax debate very closely.

“The Coke and Pepsi products, I have a lot of drinks here, they sell pretty good,” said Rodriguez, who owns the 59th Street Mini Market. “If the price goes up, I believe it’s not going to be the same anymore.”

Rodriguez is thankful that the tax was reduced. Instead of the 3 cents per ounce proposed by Mayor Kenney, a city council committee passed a compromise of a 1.5 cent tax for every ounce of beverages with added sugar or artificial sweeteners.

“The whole community, the customers, there’s a lot of people out there, they don’t have no jobs,” Rodriguez said. “It will be hard for them to pay even more money.”

The city intends to use the estimated $91 million the tax would raise to pay for Universal Pre-K, schools, recreation centers and to shore up the General Fund.

Darryl Hunter of Wynnefield has two pre-school aged children and said he supports the beverage tax.

“Times is hard,” he said. “You definitely don’t want to pay more for anything, but if it means that everybody, kids everywhere are going to have Pre-K, then you’re still saving money because your kids, you don’t have to pay for daycare.”

Daily soda drinker Hattie Williams feels the tax unfairly burdens the poor. She won’t stop drinking soda, but will get it elsewhere.

“All these taxes they keep rising, property taxes, cigarette taxes,” Williams said. “They keep saying the money is going somewhere, but it’s not going anywhere. So yeah, I will leave Philly to go get something more cheaper, if it costs me cheaper and saves me money.”

As a consolation to store owners, the council committee also advanced a bill that would provide tax credits to businesses that sell healthy beverages.

A final vote of the full council on the bills is expected to happen next Thursday.

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