Philadelphia (CBS) – Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell expressed skepticism that the proposed soda tax can viably serve as the backbone for Mayor Jim Kenney’s ambitious agenda.
Rendell, during an interview with Rich Zeoli on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT, while calling the programs the tax is intended to fund vital, questioned why only one product is being targeted?
“I think the things that Mayor Kenney wants to use the money that would be generated by a soda tax for, like universal pre-k, are absolutely desperately needed. Do I think that his soda tax is good idea? I said when Mayor Nutter proposed it that it singled out one industry. While it’s true that sugary drinks are a health problem, but so are cheeseburgers. So are donuts. Are we going to do a tax on sugary donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme? Are we going to tax cheeseburgers at McDonalds, etc?”
In addition to not including other products with high sugar content, he also thinks those who can’t afford to pay the extra tax will be the most heavily burdened.
“It unfairly hits poor people but they don’t pay the tax if they drink diet soda. They don’t pay the tax if they drink juices. So, maybe it’s trying to get people away from sugar, away from diabetes and you know that juvenile diabetes is one of our growing problems. But the problem with the tax is that I think it’s a little high to begin with and it should be spread out and not just on sodas if you’re going to have a tax like this. It should be spread out on all items that have a health risk.”
Rendell also pointed out that if the tax significantly diminishes soda consumption, a new revenue stream will be needed to fun the City’s programs.
“On one hand the City says we’re doing this to improve the health of our citizens, but on the other hand, if the citizens took the lead and stayed away from sugary drinks and went to juices and diet sodas, then it wouldn’t generate the tax we need for full-day kindergarten. I think there is an opportunity for compromise…There are ways that they can work this out that might generate income without penalizing both the industry and penalizing the consumer.”