PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney is going for broke, in his first budget address to city council, this morning, requesting a three cents an ounce soda tax to fund four ambitious new initiatives.
The biggest item on the mayor’s list is universal pre-K, a key pledge in his campaign. City officials say he’ll propose spending about $52 million a year to gradually enroll 6,500 pre-schoolers in high quality programs over the next three years.READ MORE: Car Crashes Into Storefront In Philadelphia's Oxford Circle Neighborhood
Another high priority is a historically large investment in parks, rec centers and libraries, to be funded by three $100 Million bond issues, which will cost about $11 million a year in debt service.
Two more bond issues of $50 million dollars each would pay for investments in energy efficiency, with debt service of about $4 Million a year.
The budget also is expected to include $8 million dollars to create community schools.
In addition to his own priorities, the mayor is expected to include funding for some of council’s pet projects, such as “Vision Zero,” a program championed by councilwoman Cindy Bass to eliminate traffic deaths, and the Storefront Improvement Program, a favorite of councilmen Bobby Henon and Al Taubenberger.
He also is said to be adding a position for enforcement of Councilman Bill Greenlee’s paid sick leave and wage theft prevention ordinances.
Other new spending is expected to include two satellite offices for the Department of Licenses and Inspections to improve oversight of new construction.
Costs have risen as well for employee benefits and pension payments. Budget officials say they’ve also included $200 Million dollars for upcoming labor negotiations.READ MORE: Man Killed, 16-Year-Old Student Shot In Head After Fight Near Lincoln High School, Philadelphia Police Say
But reductions to the wage tax continue with the goal of getting the rate for residents down to 3.73 percent from the current 3.91, and for non-residents to 3.33 from the current 3.48 by fiscal year 2021.
All told, the operating budget amounts to about $4.1 billion dollars, about $110 million more than the current budget.
Some of the new spending is offset by savings on overtime and fuel costs, as well as improved tax collection and user fees in the Department of Records accident reporting system.
The big ticket items, though, would be paid for by the tax on soda and other sugary drinks– an idea that failed in the previous administration and is already under attack.
The teamsters have condemned it as unfair and regressive and predicted a loss of jobs and “consumer revolt,” charging low-income and minority communities would bear the biggest burden.
The mayor has said he’s prepared to take on “Big Soda” and is expected to counter those claims in his address.
He’s said he believes tying the tax directly to universal pre-K, which has broad support, will make a difference this time around.MORE NEWS: SEPTA Riders Held Up Phones As Woman Was Raped On El Train In Upper Darby, Authorities Say
The mayor will also present a $177 million capital plan, significantly larger than previous plans. It includes investments in street resurfacing, fire and police station renovation, new police equipment (including 800 body cameras) and new Streets and Fire Department vehicles.