PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — A Philadelphia City Council committee has voted to approve an amended version of a soda tax proposal that would set a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet drinks.

Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney’s initial proposal was for a 3-cent tax on sugary beverages only, but he lacked the votes to secure it. He wants the tax to pay for universal prekindergarten, community schools and park improvements.

A council vote is scheduled for Thursday. A final vote is expected next week.

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke  spoke after the approval. “City Council prides itself on having knowledgeable and experienced technical staff, who informed members weeks ago that Mayor Kenney’s 3-cents-per-ounce proposal would raise more revenue than needed to fund his initiatives. Today, the Administration disclosed that it also intends to use the soda tax to shore up the General Fund. It is the view of many members of Council that a General Fund problem and citywide initiatives should not be resolved by a proposal that affects mostly low-income people with few options.”

Opponents at a public hearing before Wednesday’s vote shouted “No new tax!” Supporters countered with “Kids can’t wait.”

The soda industry has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to stop Philadelphia from becoming the first major U.S. city with a sugary-drinks tax.

Berkeley, California, is the only U.S. city to approve such a tax.

The decision not only gave preliminary approval to the 1.5 cent-per-ounce hike. The council also decided to advance Blondell Reynolds Brown’s bill which offers a tax credit to businesses that sell healthy beverages in their store.


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