PHILADELPHIA -- Beverage company employees, small business owners and union members protested outside City Hall against Philadelphia Mayor Nutter's proposed tax on sugary beverages.
The mayor says the 2¢-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks can help close more than half of the city's estimated $150 million deficit for the 2011 fiscal year.
The protestors, organized by Save Philly Jobs Not Taxes Coalition, argued that the tax unfairly targets just one part of the sugar industry. Rallyers also expressed their concern that allowing a soda tax opens the doors for taxing just about anything else, according to local news reports.
Employers and union members at the protest told reporters that the higher prices local businesses would have to charge as a result of the tax hike would send people elsewhere to buy their beverages, and the lost business would result in layoffs.
Soda trucks circled city hall, honking in support of the 100 or so protesters who said they would be affected by the tax.
In Philadelphia, Mayor Proposes Big Tax On Soda
(From VT's March 4 Ahead of the Times newsletter)
PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has included in his 2010-'11 budget a plan to levy what some are calling the highest tax in the nation on all sweetened beverages. The proposed 2¢-per- ounce tax -- dubbed the ""Healthy Philadelphia Initiative" -- would apply to fountain syrups and powders, based on the number of fluid ounces they produce. Diet drinks without added sugar would be excluded.
City officials said the tax could raise $77 million a year. Of that, $57 million would reportedly go to the general fund and $20 million annually would fund new programs fostering healthy eating and exercise. Half of Philadelphia's children are overweight or obese.
New York (see story above), Massachusetts and California are among seven states considering tax levies on sugar-sweetened drinks. The Philadelphia proposal would be double New York state's proposed tax. It's also more than the 3% soft-drink tax in Chicago, the only major city with such a tax. Chicago's tax adds 4¢ to a 20-fl.oz. soda priced at $1.30. The city taxes soda, diet drinks, sports drinks, sweet tea, and all drinks containing natural or artificial sweeteners.
At the federal level, the House Ways and Means Committee briefly considered a drink tax last year to help fund a healthcare overhaul. Lobbying efforts by the soft drink industry helped quash the idea.
The Pennsylvania Beverage Association and the Teamsters have mounted a local campaign against the Philadelphia proposal.