By Pat Loeb, Alexandria Hoff
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia has become the first major U.S. city to pass a tax on soda.
City council approved the 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on all sweetened beverages by 13-4, a wider margin than expected.
City council had twice rejected a soda tax, when former mayor Michael Nutter presented it as a health measure.
“This is the beginning of the process of changing the narrative of poverty in our city,” says Mayor Jim Kenney.
His winning strategy was building a coalition of advocates by dedicating the money to popular programs such as universal pre-kindergarten and improvements to parks and libraries:
“I give credit to pre-K moms and dads, to park advocates to rec advocates, to library advocates, to labor,” adds Kenney.
The tax is expected to raise $91-million.
“It was certainly a long road to get here, but this is the beginning of the process of changing the narrative of poverty in our city,” Kenney said.
The mayor released the following statement following the passage of the bill:
“Thanks to the tireless advocacy of educators, parents, rec center volunteers and so many others, Philadelphia made a historic investment in our neighborhoods and in our education system today. I commend City Council for working with these community leaders to make quality, affordable pre-K, community schools and systemic improvements to parks, rec centers and libraries a reality.
I also thank my colleagues in Council for working with our administration to craft a shared agenda that will improve the education, health and prosperity of children and families all across our city for years to come. Today would not have been possible without everyone coming together in support of a fair future for every zipcode.”
George Matysik with the Philadelphia Parks Alliance says they are thrilled:
“This is a big day for our city, a big win for our city.”
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan released the following statement on the vote:
“Council’s decisive passage of the soda tax today is another indication that they are, above all else, here to fight for the programs our children and communities so richly deserve.
We cannot overstate the value of quality early childhood education. Children who have access to pre-k programs not only perform better in grades K-12, but are also more likely to attend college, and less likely to fall victim to the school-to-prison pipeline.
“PFT members have been at the forefront of talking with our elected officials and the public about the benefits of pre-K and community schools. In May and June, more than 200 info pickets were held at more than 100 schools city-wide. Educators used these sessions to provide information to the community, encourage parents to engage with elected officials, and emphasize the significance of the programs that our children deserve.
The PFT has been in favor of Mayor Kenney’s sugary drink proposal since its inception, and never doubted that the end result of discussion and debates within City Council would result in a measure that makes great progress towards funding essential programs.
“Under the leadership of Council President Darrell Clarke, City Council has once again taken time to vet, debate, and come to consensus around legislation that will undoubtedly result in significant and tangible results for children and communities.
“The fact that the city is coalescing around educational initiatives promoted for years by the PFT is a testament to the work that our members do every day, both in and out of the classroom. “We look forward to engaging with Council and the Mayor to ensure the implementation of Pre-K and Community Schools is as effective as possible.”
On the other hand, disappointed Pepsi bottler Harold Honickman promises to take the tax to court:
“It’s a very aggressive tax, it’s a tax that’s probably against the law.”
Other opponents like Daniel Grace with Teamsters Local 830 are calling the tax ‘discriminatory:’
“With the increased price, jobs are going to be lost.”
The mayor plans to sign the bill Monday, but it won’t take effect until January, because he anticipated a court challenge and says he’s ready to fight:
“They spent a long time twisting the facts of this whole debate on television with millions of dollars and that wasn’t effective, so we’ll fight the next fight when it comes.”