- Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is planning a proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages of three cents per ounce, which is included in the budget recommendations Kenney will bring before the city council Thursday.
- Kenney's plan is to generate $400 million from the tax over the next five years, and most of that money would fund increased access to pre-kindergarten education, Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for the mayor, told The Wall Street Journal.
- Hitt said she believes the mayor has support for the tax, though it may be months before the city council finalizes a budget for the fiscal year starting in July. Philadelphia's city council shot down a similar attempt for a sugar-sweetened beverage tax, presented by Kenney's predecessor Michael Nutter, in 2011.
Government officials have proposed sugary drink taxes as both a revenue driver and a deterrent for consuming too much sugar. In its first month, the Berkeley penny-per-ounce soda tax generated $116,000, and projected revenue from the first year is around $1.2 million, part of which will fund healthy living programs. Kenney's five-year, $400 million goal seems lofty in comparison, but Philadelphia's proposed soda tax is three times Berkeley's rate. Philadelphia has a much larger population.
If Philadelphia were to successfully pass the soda tax and generate that kind of return, more cities in need of additional revenue could turn to this type of tax. The beverage industry has already successfully thwarted soda tax proposals in more than two dozen cities and states since 2009, spending about $100 million in the process.
The beverage industry has hinged its arguments on the fact that many different foods and beverages can contribute to an unhealthy diet, so it's unfair to single out sugary beverages with a sin tax. If city governments start positioning soda taxes more as a revenue driver, beverage companies may need to reframe their arguments to defeat future soda tax proposals.